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Can you stay a step ahead of violence in schools?

Keeping kids safe in school is priority No. 1 for educators. Sadly, that responsibility is getting tougher.

Crime is up in schools. U.S. News and World Report cites a National Center for Education Statistics report that puts instances of school-based non-fatal violent crime at their highest levels in nearly two decades. Say nothing for other forms of abuse, such as cyber-bullying.

So, what’s the source?
There are a number of reasons why school crime is on the rise. Some educators point to the ubiquity of social media as a potential instigator. Never have messages of abuse or violence spread so quick. Shared posts, videos, and images are increasingly difficult for school leaders and local authorities to monitor.

To stay ahead of potential threats, some forward-thinking school leaders are dedicating resources to connecting with community members online, and stepping in to head off problems before they spiral out of control.

That’s what’s happening in places like the Huntsville City Schools in Alabama.

In an effort to prevent instances of violence and abuse, Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski recently announced a plan to proactively monitor some students’ social media accounts. The policy would make it possible for administrators to discipline students who either threaten violence to classmates or teachers or who are witnessed committing acts of violence on social media. The policy comes after a series of cell phone videos surfaced that showed students engaged in fistfights, according to a report in Al.com.

“We’re going to implement a procedure that directly addresses an area that’s become a real concern again,” says Wardynski in a video posted to the district’s website, “which is how violence in our schools—how threats to our schools—interact with social media, and how social media can play a role, if we pay attention to it, in heading off problems.”

School district officials will use new technology, tips from teachers and students, as well as school security officers to monitor social media for potential threats, reports Al.com.

Wardynski says proactive social media monitoring will help school officials get ahead of violent crime and other forms of criminal activity and abuse in the district, and to impose stiff penalties and disciplinary action when necessary.

Though the plan has met with opposition from some parents and community organizations who say the policy is too intrusive, others contend it’s necessary to make students feel safe. Said Huntsville High School PTSA President Stephanie Daniel: “I believe the administration is dedicated to protecting the learning environment of our school.”

Casting a wider net
Huntsville isn’t alone. More school districts are paying closer attention to what students, and parents and teachers, say and do on social media—both to reduce potential threats to their communities and to gain critical feedback about their schools.

Online conversations involving students and schools happen every day, in myriad locations. Staying on top of potential problems requires casting a wider net. But school districts can’t always afford to dedicate more resources to the cause. One idea: Use a single solution that allows your school or district to monitor multiple social media channels at once.

How does your district gather community feedback and police violence in its schools? Tell us in the comments.