Student’s search safety


Polly Rekittke, senior, Googled the word “knife” in her first hour. By fifth hour, an administrator concerned about her search pulled her from Spanish class. Rekittke, embarrassed and flustered, quickly explained it had been for a “Hamlet” presentation in English class.

Rekittke’s situation resulted from KSD’s recent usage of Securly, a security system which filters through searches on KSD technology and accounts. Dr. Michael Havener, principal, said this filter is designed to allow administration to find and help students struggling with self harm, depression or violence by being alerted of worrisome searches.

“The district has some type of filter that has key words in it,” Havener said. “[The filter] sends an automatic alert if a student looks up one of those keywords. I get a copy and the grade level principal gets a copy and we’re supposed to follow up.”

Jeff Townsend, assistant principal, does much of this follow-up to ensure his students are safe. During the school day, this entails asking the student why they looked up the trigger words, while out of school hours he calls the parent to make sure the child is okay. He said in the vast majority of cases, the student was not planning on harming themself or others.

“Right now, Health is doing some projects related to mental health disorders, so kids are searching up those disorders,” Townsend said. “Sometimes you get random searches in biology, sometimes you get some stuff in history where they’re searching wars or use of weapons, [but] it’s primarily searches related to school.”

According to Havener, the administration sometimes tracks down as many as 15 students a day. Although the vast majority of searches are for educational purposes, the district feels this extra effort is worthwhile to protect student’s safety.

“Kids are smart and there’s a lot of information out there,” Townsend said. “If there’s information about how to harm yourself or how to build a bomb and a student looks that up, we’re going to get an alert about it and then we’re going to follow up. I do think it’s a proactive step in some ways.”

Townsend and Havener are willing to check dozens of cases like Rekittke’s, where the students are not harming themselves or others, to find the one student who potentially is. Although these searches are an inconvenience to students like Rekittke, she is willing to face the minor inconvenience to help others.

“I honestly think I’d rather be called out of class and embarrassed than have [a search saying ‘knife’] go by and them not recognize someone might be in trouble,” Rekittke said. “In my opinion, I think it’s okay that they have certain words flagged.”