Glendale resident posts his objection to student social media monitoring

Man calls school district's program that monitors students' public online activity 'unconstitutional.'

September 19, 2013|By Kelly Corrigan, | By Kelly Corrigan,
  • GLENDALE, CA - SEPTEMBER 12, 2013: Portrait of Young Cho, left, 16, of Glendale and Christopher Chung, right,16, also of Glendale in front of their school Herbert Hoover High School in Glendale, CA September 12, 2013. The Glendale Unified School District, in an effort to reach out to students at risk of harming themselves and try to quell bullying at its schools, hired a company last month to monitor the social media accounts of its 13,000 middle and high school students. The company scrutinize public posts from accounts associated with students - reporting to school officials posts indicating issues ranging from suicidal thoughts and abuse, to vandalism and use of obscenities. ( Francine Orr/ Los Angeles Times)
GLENDALE, CA - SEPTEMBER 12, 2013: Portrait of Young Cho,… (Francine Orr / Los…)

A grandfather of five stood up to castigate Glendale school officials for their decision to pay a company to monitor students' public posts on social networks, calling it an unconstitutional overreach.

Tony Passarella, whose two daughters graduated from Hoover High School in 1987 and 1989, made his feelings known at Tuesday's school board meeting. The basketball coach at Pacific Community Center was the first to address the board, pro or con, about the $40,500 contract with Geo Listening, despite national headlines and much online commentary.

"There is no way this is OK for the school board to intrude on the public speech of these students," the 26-year resident said following the meeting. "As far as legality, from what I've researched, I guess it's legal. But the way I read it, it's unconstitutional.... In my opinion, it's overreaching, big time."

However, Glendale Unified School District officials say the service helps the district intervene when students bully each other, threaten to hurt themselves or engage in drugs or violence.


During the meeting, Passarella also addressed Hoover High senior Audria Amirian, the student body's representative on the board.

"Audria, what you need to do is you need to rally your students," he said.

In response, Audria said she initially questioned the district keeping an eye on students' posts.

"I used to feel, in the beginning, some of the things that he was feeling," she said, but agreed with the district utilizing the service, which can only report on students' publicly available posts.

"They're not hacking into your system to find out what you've posted," Audria added. "Everything is public information. And I think that even if it saves one student's life, it's worth every dollar that you've put into it," she told the school board.

PTA presidents of Glendale schools are scheduled to discuss the service with Sheehan next week.

The meeting is not open to the general public, said Sandy Russell, president of the Glendale Council PTA. However, she said, the PTA leaders will be able to share more information with their fellow parents afterward.

"As everybody else has been finding out about it, so are we," she said. "We're still gathering our information … making sure if we have questions that we are getting those answers from the district."

Among parents and students, Russell said she is glad the topic has inspired discussion.

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