Orange County Public Schools to monitor students on social media

District wants to prevent situations that could affect students

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Orange County school district is now monitoring students' social media messages in an effort to curb cyberbullying, crime on campus and suicide.

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Orange County Public Schools announced Thursday that it has acquired software to monitor social media "to proactively prevent, intervene and (watch) situations that may impact students and staff."  The district has obtained an annual license with SnapTrends, software that monitors Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

The district said it plans to use the software to conduct routine monitoring for the purposes of prevention or early intervention of potential issues in which students or staff could be at risk to themselves or to others.

OCPS said the company will assist district law enforcement and security personnel in monitoring publicly available social media communications that are relevant to school operations and personnel.

"This is a tool that gives the district intelligence into a situation that could possibly prevent something more serious from happening," Orange County Public Schools Senior Director of Safety and Security Doug Tripp said.

"Safety in and around school campuses is the top priority for Orange County school leaders," OCPS said in a news release.  "Recognizing social media is a major communication system, the district has acquired social media monitoring software."

School officials acknowledge the online snooping might raise privacy questions. But board member Linda Kobert said the district is taking advantage of "new tools to protect our children."

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OCPS will also use the software for monitoring purposes to supplement other forms of law enforcement information being used during an emergency situation.

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