School officials at an Alabama school district say they started quietly monitoring the online activity of their students after the National Security Agency warned them about a particular student, Al.com reported.
Huntsville City Schools started surveilling social media activity about 18 months ago in an attempt to catch any indications of gang activity or other threatening behavior, including suicide. The program, called Students Against Fear, or SAFe, has led to the expulsion of three students who were seen posing with firearms off campus in Facebook photos. Another such student was recommended for counseling.
The program also helped the district dissolve a gang known as Wolfpack. About a half dozen members, who all had family ties, were expelled and placed in alternative programs.
The NSA, meanwhile, says it does not contact school systems and has no record of making an exception in the Huntsville case. Huntsville schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski said the NSA called to inform the system that a student threatened on Facebook to harm a teacher.
“The National Security Agency has no record that it passed any information to the Huntsville school district, and the description of what supposedly occurred is inconsistent with NSA's practices," Vanee Vines, public affairs specialist with the NSA, told Al.com.
A federal agency like the FBI would have jurisdiction for such a domestic safety issue, not the NSA, Vines added. Wardynski said the student made the threats while chatting online with others, including someone in Yemen, thus prompting the NSA to make the call to Hunstville.
Al.com noted that a company called Geo Listening, based in California, specializes in monitoring social media for school districts. Glendale, Calif., is one of its clients.