School district looking to bring back computer monitoring system ‘in the near future’ after parents, admin. raise concerns

A program called Linewize monitors what students search on school-issued devices.
Vaughn said the district plans on bringing Linewize back soon, but not before speaking to parents and administrators more about the program.
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 5:22 PM EDT
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LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) - It is designed to keep your kids – and their classmates – safe.

A new program that keeps tabs on what students search on school-issued computers isn’t making some people too happy. This tool is causing a bit of a stir for parents in Lancaster County.

The program is called Linewize. The district says this program monitors school-issued computers and accounts to see if students look up anything suspicious or concerning like school shootings or bullying. While the program is new, the district said the monitoring is not.

”As soon as the email went out it basically said we’re watching your kids,” Courtney Green, a parent at Lancaster County Schools, said.

Some parents feel slighted by the Lancaster County School District as they say the new system was rolled out without much of a heads-up.

”It just felt like it was another example of them trying to raise my kids and its my job to raise my kids,” she said.

Despite that, district officials describe the program as a more active approach to monitoring.

Safety Director Bryan Vaughn said trained staff at Linewize monitor all school-issued computers and flag the school if they see a student look up something that could be considered a red flag. This can range from self-harm and depression to threatening harm on a school or other students.

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When the district gets those alerts, Vaughn said a team will decide the best way to approach the matter—including getting police involved if needed.

He said this system only works on school-issued computers so while students can still look up certain topics on personal computers, he hopes this will make the district more aware of what is going on.

”Does this mean we’re going to see more activity? Absolutely,” Vaughn said. “The activity was there. We’re just doing a better job of seeing it and being able to help kids.”

After reading the email sent by the district about that program, Green said it left many questions up in the air.

A big one some are wondering is how the district started this program without consulting parents.

”I think we needed to hear that research and some type of presentation before they say he we’re doing this,” Green said.

Vaughn said it is all in the user agreements students get with the Chromebooks. He said the monitoring is not, and has never, been hidden. He compared it to a parent’s job-issued computer.

”We may not be getting 100 percent buy-in,” he said. “There’s a lot of programs that don’t. But what we do know is systems like this have been proven to work.”

How is it proven? Vaughn said all it takes is to look at other districts right here in this state.

Other districts, including Chesterfield County, use this system. It is also used across the country as well.

”It’s not a program that’s unique to us,” Vaughn said.

One of the main concerns was how the district planned to keep kids safe with this program. Vaughn said one of the reasons they rolled it back is because they needed to re-evaluate their safety after seeing how much dangerous activity they had in just the first three weeks.

”If I’m going to tell you as a parent that ‘hey, we’re monitoring this material,’ then we want to have the system in place that when we get that notification, we can do something with it,” he said.

”Our motto is to put kids first and be safe and try to do all we can,” Vaughn said. “That’s what we’re trying to do at this point is trying to keep kids safe.”

But Green still feels parents need a lot more information from the district if they are going to get on board.

”If there’s research for that that can prove hey that actually prevented some school shootings or prevented some suicides then that’s great,” Green said. “Let’s hear that research.”

Vaughn said the district plans on bringing Linewize back soon, but not before speaking to parents and administrators more about the program.

Related: Students and families dealing with safety concerns ahead of return to school