WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. - Schools are always taking steps to make sure that students are safe, and now Washington County will become one of only four counties in the entire nation to implement Social Sentinel.
"What we wanted to do is help secure our campus environments, really to keep them free from bullying," said Clayton Wilcox, superintendent of Washington County Public Schools. "Keep them free from aggressive behavior."
The program detects keywords through social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that may be related to a threat within the geo-fence.
"Those key words or key phrases will trigger an email to the principal or to me, and then we'll do a threat assessment," Wilcox said. "At that point we would just have an honest to God, face to face conversation with the student and just determine, 'Is this a threat? Is it something worth us following up?"'
The program does not review texts or emails but does detect the keywords through any cell phone or computer in the designated area.
"We've always had a great concern for security and safety of our kids," Wilcox said. "What we're starting to see is if you want to go where kids are, you have to know what technologies they're using, and in fact, they're using these technologies. So in order for us to make sure that we can help our kids to be safe, we're going there too."
The program cost the county about $20,000. The first day of school in Washington County is August 20, 2014.