LANCASTER, SC (WBTV) – It’s designed to keep your kids and their classmates safe.
A new program that keeps tabs on what students search for on school computers isn’t making some people too happy. This tool is making a bit of a splash with parents in Lancaster County.
The program is called Linear. The district says this program monitors computers and accounts issued by the school to see if students are looking for anything suspicious or worrisome like school shootings or bullying. Although the program is new, the district said the monitoring is not.
“As soon as the email went out, it basically said we’re watching your kids,” said Courtney Green, a parent from Lancaster County Schools.
Some parents feel offended by Lancaster County School District as they say, the new system was rolled out without much warning.
“It felt like it was another example of them trying to raise my kids and it’s my job to raise my kids,” she said.
Despite this, district officials describe the program as a more active approach to monitoring.
Director of Security Bryan Vaughn said trained Linewize staff monitor all school computers and report the school if they see a student looking for something that could be considered a red flag. It can range from self-harm and depression to threatening to harm a school or other students.
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When the district receives those alerts, Vaughn said a team will decide how best to address the issue, including bringing in the police if necessary.
He said this system only works on school-provided computers. So while students can still research certain topics on personal computers, he hopes this will make the district more aware of what’s going on.
“Does that mean we’re going to see more activity? Absolutely,” Vaughn said. “The activity was there. We’re just doing a better job of seeing it and being able to help kids.
After reading the email sent by the district about this program, Green said he left many questions unanswered.
A big question some are asking is how the district started this program without consulting parents.
“I think we needed to hear this research and some type of presentation before they told it we’re doing this,” Green said.
Vaughn said it’s all in the user agreements students get with Chromebooks. He said the surveillance is not and has never been hidden. He compared it to a parent’s work computer.
“We may not get 100% buy-in,” he said. “There are a lot of programs that don’t. But what we do know is that systems like this have a proven track record.
How is it proven? Vaughn said all it takes is looking at other districts right here in this state.
Other districts, including Chesterfield County, use this system. It is also used throughout the country.
“It’s not a program of our own,” Vaughn said.
One of the main concerns was how the district planned to keep children safe with this program. Vaughn said one of the reasons they canceled it was because they had to reevaluate their safety after seeing how much dangerous activity they had in the first three weeks alone.
“If I’m going to tell you as a parent that ‘hey, we’re monitoring this material,’ then we want to have the system in place so that when we get that notification we can do something about it,” he said. . .
“Our motto is to put kids first, be safe and try to do everything we can,” Vaughn said. “That’s what we’re trying to do at this point is try to keep the kids safe.”
But Green still thinks parents need a lot more information from the district if they want to get on board.
“If there’s research on this that can prove that it has actually prevented some school shootings or prevented some suicides, then that’s great,” Green said. “Let’s listen to this research.”
Vaughn said the district plans to bring Linewize back soon, but not before talking more about the program to parents and administrators.
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