By Nate Smith
Washington Times Herald
North Daviess administrators are looking into a new program that will detect student threats on social media.
Administrators told the North Daviess School Board on Monday about a new program called Social Netwatch, a program that looks for possible threats made by students on Facebook.
Superintendent Robert Bell told the board the program is still in the testing phase, but likes what it can promise in finding people who are thinking about violence before it happens.
"There's always a risk of what we do or do not do," Bell said.
In the trial program, 10 students have signed up to have their Facebook page monitored by the program. The program looks for key words, like "shoot" "school," or "gun," and sends Bell or Jr./Sr. High School Principal Jed Jerrels an email alert if a message seems threatening. It will be up to Jerrels and/or Bell to follow up with the student.
Administrators do not have access to the students' pages, but only get the alerts if the program finds one. So far, Jerrels said, there has not been one.
"It's preventative," Jerrels said. "We would rather deal with the prevention instead of the aftermath." Bell said the program is used for Facebook only and does not provide searches on Twitter, which many students use in a combination with or instead of Facebook.
To get more students involved, Jerrels thought of an incentive program where students will be able to use Facebook in school if they allow the monitoring program. Currently, Facebook is not allowed on school networks.
The trial will continue until May.
Elementary Principal Jodi Berry told the board a record 111 students have pre-enrolled in kindergarten for next year.
The demand is so great, Berry said, the school is offering a second round of kindergarten roundup and may have to offer a third.
"We've never had that many preregistered before," Berry said.
Board member asked if there were enough classrooms to fill the need and why there were so many kindergartners. Berry assured them there are enough classrooms, and all of the students live in the North Daviess district.
"It is just a big group," Berry said.
The pool at North Daviess was discussed again Monday when Bell informed the board two purchases had to be made for it.
The first, not to exceed $3,600, was for a pool vacuum. The old one had finally exhausted its lifespan. The second, up to $6,600, was for a pool lift chair that would be used for the handicapped. The board approved the purchases.
Bell said the chair is now a federal requirement and had to be purchased.
The pool is a sore spot with some board members and was scheduled to be closed a few years ago until public outcry kept it open. Currently, classes use the pool toward the end of the school year.
Bell said there are issues with the pool windows and doors that need to be addressed in the near future.
The board approved a three-year plan to upgrade technology across the school system. In 2013, the school will spend $157,125. For 2014, that amount goes to $156,368 and falls in 2015 to $139,180.
Bell said the upgrades will be for teacher computers, storage space, wireless upgrades and continued purchasing of student computers.