Schools ‘Spy' on Students to Save Lives

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Schools across North Texas have been dishing out electronic devices to students as young as kindergarten. It's a way to keep students connected to the campus in cases of remote learning. Parents know they have to watch where their kids are going on the internet, but do you know someone else is watching too?

Having teenagers, even pre-teens, means you're often in the dark, about what's on their minds.

"They hang out in their rooms, most teenagers hang out in their rooms and they're good at hiding their feelings," said Demetra, a mother of a Frisco ISD student.

Demetra and Jason were able to learn a lot about their daughter, thanks to the school counselors, and what they saw on the girl's computer.

"They got an alert from my daughter's computer that they had been looking at key phrases like 'kill myself suicide' anything along the lines of self-harm," said Jason.

The parents couldn't believe what the staff in Frisco ISD was telling them about their own child. Especially Demetra who's a therapist herself.

"It's literally underneath our noses. It's shocking," she said.

 Frisco ISD has the technology in place on district devices where certain keywords and phrases immediately send an alert to campus counselors.

"They'll tell you 'Okay, I was being dramatic with my language' and we're like 'Okay, but tell me more because we're not that easy.' Sometimes there's some hopelessness and disappointment about things going on," said Stephanie Cook, Managing Director of Guidance and Counseling Services, Frisco ISD.

Counselors are seeing more of it now than ever as students aren't able to socialize with their peers as much and are spending more time at home, they're going stir crazy just like adults.

"We track our hospitalization rates in Frisco and at the beginning of the year, we were up 200% in hospitalizations. There was a point of time in Collin County in the fall where there were no mental health beds available for adolescents," said Cook. 

The district said this is in place to save lives, nothing more, and in the few months they started this cyber snooping they're confident they've helped save lives.

"Please spy on my kids," said Demetra. "If they didn't have that technology in place, there's no way we would have known she was struggling."

Jason and Demetra report their daughter is doing much better now that she's gotten help.

Many districts have similar capabilities and while they may not always alert staff that something is wrong, most districts can go back and look at your child's search history if you suspect something.  Just reach out and ask for help.

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