GoGuardian Beacon Summer Change
During the summer months, City Schools disables GoGuardian Beacon, the automated tool that monitors student self-harm searches on Chromebooks. Beginning June 26, 2023, GoGuardian Beacon will be disabled. It will be reenabled on Friday, August 25, 2023.
GoGuardian Filtering will continue, filtering web content on student Chromebooks that are not joined to the City Schools network.
GoGuardian Teacher, the tool that allows teachers to connect with students to manage and support learning on Chromebooks, will still be available for summer learning.
What is GoGuardian?
Go Guardian is a tool that teachers use to manage computer use in a classroom. Students are connected simply by logging into their district Chromebook with their City Schools username and password. The teacher of a class can connect to the student devices, allowing them to see a small image of the student desktop to ensure that students are focused on work and not going to inappropriate sites. Teachers can also send out documents or websites through the GoGuardian dashboard and can take screenshots of great work to use as examples for other students or to share with families.
Additionally, GoGuardian provides an additional layer of website filtering to help ensure that students are staying safe while surfing.
What is Beacon?
Beacon is an add-on tool to the district’s GoGuardian license that helps to identify when students are at risk for self-harm or suicide. Mental health concerns, like depression, can sometimes be hidden and students can suffer in silence until they decide to act. Beacon helps the district mental health professionals identify students who are at risk for suicide or self-harm so that we can get them the necessary help.
Beacon uses machine learning (learn more about machine learning here) to identify key words or phrases in a web search or online document. Once that language is identified, an alert is generated and sent to the student’s school. Staff who receive it include the principal and the mental health clinicians assigned to the student’s school. Those staff members will then meet with the child and determine if there is really a risk for self harm and will then contact the family to discuss any concerns and recommendations for further help.
In some cases, students stay logged into their district device even when at home. Because Beacon is active when the student is logged in, it will continue to monitor and look for the words or phrases associated with suicide and self harm. In the cases where this happens in the evenings or weekends, alerts are still generated. In those cases, though, when the school staff are not working, the district has opted to have the School Police dispatch team reach out to the family. If there is no answer when the dispatcher calls, an officer might be sent to the address on file to make sure that families are made aware that the student is might be in crisis.
It is important to note that visits by school police officers in the case of a Beacon alert are just to inform families and provide support should a student need to be transported to an emergency room or clinic. Officers will not enter the home unless invited in and students will not be detained because of a Beacon alert. Officers are simply there to provide support and resources.
Is Beacon 100% Accurate?
No, unfortunately, machine learning is an ongoing process. The algorithm or code is constantly learning and getting smarter, but it can still make a mistake. Sometimes if a student is searching for content related to gaming or something silly, the tool can sometimes trigger a false alert. In those cases, the school may speak with the student to confirm that he or she is ok. In other cases, the false alert is so obvious that the alert will just be deleted.
Does Beacon Monitor Keystrokes or Other Devices in the Home?
No. Beacon does not monitor keystrokes or what a student is typing. Instead it is looking for words or phrases on the sites that the student clicks on after a search. It will also look at the words and phrases on Google or Office 365 documents. It is not monitoring for anything other than suicide or self harm and will not send an alert for any other topic.
Additionally, the student must be logged in with their district username and password to turn on Beacon. If they are on a personal device with a personal account, Beacon will not work. It is important to note that if a student uses their district user name and password to log into the Chrome browser on a personal device, Beacon may activate and and look at search results. To ensure that doesn’t happen, students should create a personal google account and use that when using a personal device.
2023 BEACON LANGUAGE FOR FAMILIES
As many families are aware, during the school year, City Schools uses a tool called Beacon to alert us when a student uses their City Schools laptop to search for content related to self harm. During the summer months, when students and staff are not in their regular school programs, the district will be turning the Beacon tool off.
Should you have concerns about your child’s mental health during the summer break, please reach out to the following:
Families should also continue to have conversations with students about safe online behavior and mental health. These resources can help:
Finally, there are things that families can do to keep watch on student online activity. These include:
- Only allowing children to access the internet while supervised. This might include moving the computer into a shared space in the house.
- Using your internet provider’s parental controls to manage what students are allowed to access.
- Subscribe to a family content filter.