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Hawkins BOE buys software to catch porn, suicide searches among students

Jeff Bobo • Nov 19, 2019 at 2:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — A Hawkins County first-grader received an unintentional anatomy lesson recently after misspelling a word during an online Google search that directed him to an adult-oriented website.

According to sources within the school system, that website displayed nude animation.

A new computer software program approved for purchase last week by the Hawkins County Board of Education will eliminate the possibility of those types of online mishaps.

The new software also alerts teachers and administrators of certain language on school computers that would indicate threats to student safety such as suicide.

During its Nov. 12 meeting, the BOE approved the purchase of Gaggle Safety Management for Google Drive at a cost of $28,850 annually.

Director of Schools Matt Hixson said the software alerts teachers and/or administrators when certain words are used during student online activities such as suicide or pornographic terms.

“Suicide is unfortunately something we're dealing with inside the school system these days, and if we can catch people searching for those types of things and get keyed into those types of issues, we're hoping this will be proactive step,” Hixson said.

Wayne Absher, Hawkins County school technology director, told the BOE that several Tennessee school systems are already using this software, including Knoxville and Loudon County.

“(Loudon County) used it on Christmas Day when one of their students was typing a suicide letter,” Absher said. “It picked up the suicide words that she was writing and notified their personnel. The police was called, it was legitimate, and they went out to the house and was able to save the girl's life by getting there ahead of time.”

The software will be paid for from state allocated Safe School Funds.

It also brings Hawkins County Schools into compliance with the Children's Internet Privacy and Protection Act (SIPPA), which requires school systems to provide a safe interaction with the internet for students.

“It not only fits those (SIPPA) guidelines, it makes it more of a proactive approach,” Hixson told the board.

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