Obliged to Protect

In light of the two suicides at the Crescenta Valley and La Cañada High Schools, the former being a part of the GUSD (Glendale Unified School District), plans to counteract the staggering effects of cyber bullying and other internet ills were enacted unbeknownst to students in the district.

14,000 adolescents of Glendale’s middle and high schools were shocked to learn that GUSD hired the Hermosa-based company Geo Listening to carefully monitor their pupils’ updates on different social media outlets. It was a bold declaration of universal protection and pervasive surveillance the GUSD readily made in order to ensure its students’ safety and  well-being.

Despite its good intentions, the district painted a target on itself, already under fire from critics who believe its actions are transgressing upon necessary privacy, and overstepping sanctified boundaries in its jurisdiction. Dr. Armina Gharpetian of the Glendale School Board defended the cyber-incursion, stating, “I think prevention and intervention [are] key.” Candidates for positions on the Board such as Jennifer Freemon were quick to lay further defensive claims to the decision, as she affirms, “We are not going to let any more of our kids do this to themselves.”

The question here is, has the district gone too far? To put it candidly, no. Our society is one where everything is already catalogued on a daily basis, from the break of day to the dead of night.

Every waking moment is spent toiling endlessly to immerse ourselves in social media, be it through Twitter, Tumblr, Instragram or the multitude of other sites that have come and gone. If the GUSD wishes to prevent cyber bullying or counter the threats entailed in various comment sections and cyber-forums in order to prevent future suicides like those that occurred at the Valley and La Cañada High Schools, so be it.

Comments are whisked about in the blink of an eye, escaping the psyche and entering the realm of cyberspace without a second thought. The human conscience is consistently cast aside in lieu of technological bliss, in a virtual realm where we spend more time than in the physical world around us.

Society is caught in a technological wave from which it cannot break free. Personally, I see that this change allows us to progress; new means of communication arise as well as consistent enlightenment on the larger world around us.

Where we also spend most of our time is at school in our adolescence. Those saying the GUSD overdraws its boundaries do not see that it is an obligation the district must fulfill to protect students, as they remain at school longer than they are at home. It is only natural to render facilities within the Glendale Unified School District safe for youth so as to eliminate any threat on the Internet, where they (students) spend hours conveying private information to begin with.

Such information is thus rendered the opposite of private, and brazenly posted to the World Wide Web as a public journal for all to see. This is practically an invitation into the comments and other public displays of information constantly posted that any faculty member of the GUSD can access freely with any aid from Geo Listening. The “violation of privacy” claimed by critics is no violation at all, only monitoring of already public information.

What is suddenly changed in the reckless declarations made thereof? The implementation of responsibility. The reality that now the district may take action against any threat seen online can prove effective in holding students responsible for any remarks made, as it should be.

We as rational individuals are able to control ourselves, belaying any impulse to bully one another over the Internet. As for threats made within social media sites, all benefit from preemptive action.

It is about time we take responsibility for the things we say electronically, and take action against the lucrative whims of anonymous protection. The policy to monitor online activity may have been enacted poorly by not informing students immediately, but the benefits outweigh any invasion of so called “privacy,” if it may even be called such when the information is publicly displayed in the first place. We allow everyone into our lives through the Internet except those that may hold us accountable for our actions.

Whether is it welcomed or not, the GUSD initiative to monitor its students has spread to a multitude of other School Districts, and founder of Geo Listening Chris Frydrych claims to expect supplying over 3,000 other schools with the company’s services. In this situation, the Glendale Unified School District’s actions are far from deplorable.