Earlier this month, the Mississippi State Auditor’s office distributed a report regarding cybersecurity in schools. Specifically, the report addressed whether or not students were able to access online material that may be harmful or is not age appropriate. The report addresses whether or not schools implemented the recommendations made in a 2017 State Auditor’s report. According to a survey, most Mississippi schools did not fully implement these recommendations. In particular, while schools may have written internet policies, the majority of districts failed to follow through by monitoring students’ online activities. However, by partnering with LearnSafe, one district greatly increased school cybersecurity.
The State of School Cybersecurity in Mississippi
The 2022 report mentions that funding for technology in schools recently increased, giving students access to more technology. Without effective monitoring, the State Auditor’s office warns, the problem of student access to inappropriate and harmful material online will only increase. As State Auditor Shad White says, “The bottom line from this report is that many school districts comply with the minimum legal standards, but those minimum standards are not enough to guarantee student safety. We still see students able to access pornography, discuss illegal activity, and plan self-harm using state-issued devices.”
Monitoring Software Increases School Cybersecurity
However, the report reveals that certain Mississippi school districts do effectively monitor student technology use. In these districts, monitoring software protects students from online material and interactions that can do them great harm. In particular, the Auditor’s office highlights the Petal School District’s monitoring system. Petal, a client of LearnSafe, received special mention in the report for “success in the area of cybersecurity.” According to the report, Petal’s success is due to their pairing content filtering software with LearnSafe, a monitoring system “which they believe has been invaluable.”
How LearnSafe Increased School Cybersecurity in a Mississippi District
Petal School District officials note that LearnSafe offers “in-depth reporting to fully understand what the students are doing on school devices.” LearnSafe’s human monitors also alert school officials to at-risk activity, including “incidents of threats, self-harm, violence, weapons, and pornography.” Therefore, officials can “facilitate individual interventions,” often before harm occurs. In fact, over the past three years, LearnSafe alerts helped counselors “to make positive interventions” in forty-five cases. According to the Superintendent of Petal Schools, “Our proactive approach allows us to keep our kids, faculty, and staff safe. This system makes sense for our district and is something that is continuously vetted and monitored.”