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Warren County school districts use new tool to protect students

Posted at 4:57 PM, Apr 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-26 21:33:51-04

SPRINGBORO, Ohio -- When Kings students left class for the day Thursday, it's likely some of them went straight to their phones and social media.

If anyone posts something publicly that could be a threat against the school, the district will find out. Several Warren County school districts are using a Vermont firm's services in their efforts to keep students safe.

The company Social Sentinel monitors public postings on social media to see if words or phrases appear there that could pose safety or security threats to the districts.

Dawn Gould, the Kings community relations director, normally spends much of her off time monitoring social media looking for potential problems.

"This actually helps me out a little bit, because I don't have to worry so much," she said.

Warren County Educational Service Center Superintendent Tom Isaacs brought up Social Sentinel when county superintendents were talking about adding another layer of security after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

"It's no secret that, many times, school threats increase in schools in the springtime," Isaacs said. "So, as we planned for what happens after spring break and as the weather gets warm, we all agreed that it would be a good time to try something new."

The cost is $1.20 per student in each school district, according to Isaacs. He said the Educational Service Center is paying half for districts in the county.

The company searches for key words within the area around the school districts, according to Isaacs.

"We don't want kids making any school threats at all, so I hope the kids who might think about doing these things know we are watching," he said.

Isaacs said there's no need to worry about private information being made public.

"The only thing we're looking at is what kids or other people might put in the public domain," Isaacs said.

Erin Nicley is a school resource officer for Springboro schools. She's 100 percent behind the monitoring.

"Everyone feels much braver behind the guise of social media because it's anonymous, they think," Nicley said. "And what people don't realize is there's nothing out there is really anonymous."

As with any technology, common sense is required.

"I saw an alert the other day that something mentioned 'shooting hoops' at a basketball game," Nicley said. "Obviously, not something that we're going to be concerned about, but it picked up on the word 'shooting' and alerted all the schools in the area."

Mason is the only Warren County school district currently not using the service, but spokesperson Tracey Carson said they're aware of it and studying it for possible use in the future.