Safety & Security

Beaumont ISD Implements AI Program to Prevent Violence and Suicide

Beaumont ISD will implement a new artificial intelligence-based safety management system to monitor student emails and accounts to prevent violence and suicide.

The Texas school district approved a contract with Gaggle, a software company that scans student emails and files stored on school-issued Google or Microsoft accounts. The company looks for instances of bullying and references to drug and alcohol abuse, intentions of violence, sexual content, self-harm, hate speech, pornography and more.

Once the flagged content is detected, a safety expert analyzes the material to determine the severity of the content and then works with the school district to properly address the concern.

Toni McPherson, director of information services and technology for Beaumont Independent School District, told the Beaumont Enterprise, the flagged content “will be blocked from being shared to others and the Gaggle staff will immediately review it and determine the severity. In high-severity situations, the content will be sent to the appropriate district staff to be addressed.”

While Gaggle may be used to prevent suicide or a school tragedy, some advocates are concerned the software violates student privacy and can violate the Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA), reported the Beaumont Enterprise. Gaggle cites it’s compliant with the federal regulation under the “school official” exclusion, meaning the school districts give the company permission to handle student’s information. Parents can also opt out of the program but students will not be allowed to use school-issued technology.

Beaumont is one of about 1,400 schools who uses Gaggle. The software will cost more than $88,000 and is covered by federal funding and not from BISD’s general fund. Gaggle will be phased in at the school district over the next several months.

About the Author

Yvonne Marquez is senior editor of School Planning & Management magazine. She can be reached at ymarquez@1105media.com.