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PSRC school board OKs use of software that sends alerts about student stress

LUMBERTON — The Public Schools of Robeson County will pursue the use of computer software that can notify administrators of signs of stress in students.

Members of the school district’s Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to partner with The University of North Carolina at Pembroke in using the Gaggle software to monitor student interactions, if parents permit it. The software is to be paid for using $3 million in state funding allocated to UNCP.

“Gaggle is an analytics tool that runs behind the scenes of your student learning management software,” said Loury Floyd, dean of the university’s School of Education. “The intent of Gaggle is to assist with mental health.”

The software uses student interactions in the school system’s learning platforms and school emails to identify signs of stress or a student’s intent to harm him or herself. The software then can alert PSRC district leaders so they can take appropriate action. Gaggle does not alert parents or collect information from other apps downloaded onto a student’s device.

Parents must review a privacy notice and complete a permission form before the software can be enabled.

“I look at this as sort of an additional layer of protection for our kids,” school board member Terry Locklear said.

Board member Linda Emanuel expressed concern about privacy.

Also on Tuesday board Chairman Craig Lowry gave an update on the school re-entry plan, and said the transportation survey is due Friday.

“We are striving to ensure the safety of our schools and all our children,” Lowry said.

“Public Schools of Robeson County Transportation will be able to pick up and drop off students at child care facilities. Public Schools of Robeson County Transportation will be able to pick up students from home and drop off at child care facilities,” he added.

The school board will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases before it sends any children or staff back to school campuses, Lowry said.

In other matters, PSRC school psychologists Lanette Locklear and Susan Stephens said they need help clearing their heavy workload.

The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of 700 children to one psychologist, while the national average is 1,382 to one and the state average 2,100 children to one, Stephens said.

The PSRC has a ratio of 11,500 to one, she said.

The workload is divided between the two women.

“We are not miracle workers,” Stephens said. “We want you to understand, and we do the best we can, but we desperately need some help.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has made in-person testing more difficult, and more time consuming, Locklear said. And the two psychologists can’t keep up with the workload related to testing children for learning disabilities.

“We’re trying to find…



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