Orange County schools implementing social-media monitoring for students

Orange County News

The Orange County school district is implementing a new online security service to catch online threats related to school shootings.

Monday night, the district voted to implement Social Sentinel, which is a tracking tool that will scan students’ social media accounts. The purpose of the service is to lower the chances of school shootings.

Dr. Stephen Halkiotis, the Orange County Board of Education chairman, responded to the criticism that the service is an invasion of privacy.

“I think you give up your privacy when you decide to put your heart’s feelings, whether they’re positive or negative, on the internet,” he said.

Halkiotis said the service looks for keywords posted in a public domain.

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He wouldn’t go into detail about which keywords alert the system for security reasons.

“Somebody pops up on Facebook, somewhere in California, I don’t care, and say there’s going to be a shooting at Orange High School in Hillsborough on August 15,” he explained. “That’s going to send an alert to Orange County Schools, Orange County Schools alerts the Orange County Sheriff’s department and then the whole ball starts rolling.”

The new service costs the district $10,000. Halkiotis said school leaders have a moral and ethical responsibility to keep students safe.

“You put a value on a human life, you put a value on the life of a child, I say ‘no,’” he said. “A child is the most important little thing in the world to any parent or guardian and it’s our duty to protect and serve that family and child.”

Orange County school leaders said they will evaluate this service on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis to determine if it’s working to keep children safe.

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