Indiana schools use new technology to keep students safe, prevent bullying

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PUTNAM COUNTY, Ind.– It’s National Safe Schools Week and Bullying Prevention Month and schools in central Indiana are implementing new programs to help protect students.

Administrators at North Putnam Middle School launched Social Net Watcher at the beginning of the month. The computer program, developed in Indiana, works in “the cloud” to detect dangerous words posted on Facebook. If threatening words or indications of violence or suicide are found through the Social Net Watcher algorithm, the system will send a push alert to school administrators.

“This is designed to report that activity, gives the superintendent and principals a heads up and an alert before that happens and allows them to intercede,” said President of Social Net Watcher Bruce Canal.

North Putnam Middle School Principal Terry Tippin said he’s already gotten three alerts through the program. Two of them turned out to be false, but one was a legitimate concern about a student contemplating suicide. He said the post would have likely gone unnoticed by staff without the Social Net Watcher alert.

“I doubt I would have ever seen the posting. Kids friend themselves and as soon as adults start using the system they go find something different to be among themselves, so I doubt that I would have ever seen it,” Tippin said.

North Putnam Middle school is also using a new software called Standard for Success, a web-based evaluation system for teachers to use. Standard for Success and Social Net Watcher have partnered up so teachers don’t have to log in to separate sites.

“It’s absolutely essential to collect data and as the administrators are collecting data about what’s happening in the classroom, not only are they looking at instructional practices, but they’re also looking at classroom management and what’s going on with the students. Student safety is very important in that process,” said Todd Whitlock with Standard for Success.

That data collection will likely help schools comply with recent anti-bullying legislation.

“With the new bullying law that went into effect in Indiana this summer, schools are now required to report to the Department of Education the number of bullying events that they’ve had. Our software also allows them to go in and create a report to send to the Department of Education,” Canal said.

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