Everyone is feeling the strain of shutdowns caused by COVID-19, especially the Nation’s K-12 students. Students are learning from home, isolated from their friends and classmates, and with no end to this pandemic in sight, are experiencing increased feelings of despair and frustration.
Nicole Allien, Instructional Technologist at Caddo Parish Public Schools, has witnessed first-hand how the pandemic and social distancing have impacted her students with the help of Lightspeed Alert™. “Since students went home in March, I’ve had so many more Safety Check notifications, with more of them being real threats than not,” says Allien.
Lightspeed Alert is a smart feature within Lightspeed Filter™ that utilizes advanced A.I. to identify students whose web activity, including web searches, email, content within online documents and other activities, indicates they are at risk of self-harm or other dangers. When concerning activity is flagged, a real-time alert is sent directly to a school’s designated contact with screenshots of the activity so they can assess and quickly take action.
With 38,000 students in the district, it can be frighteningly easy to miss the early warning signs of self-harm or suicide contemplation – even more so when teachers aren’t able to physically see their students. Caddo Parish began testing Lightspeed Alert during its beta stage, and even then Allien understood what a powerful resource she had when it came to the next level of protecting students.
When Lightspeed Alert became fully available, Allien jumped right into getting it deployed alongside their Lightspeed Filter. “[Lightspeed Alert] has been an asset to our district from day one. It has alerted us to issues we didn’t know our students had, and has made a difference in those students’ lives. ” says Allien.
Since the shutdowns have started, the impact on students’ mental health and well-being was immediately obvious.
“We have had 25% more notifications from [Lightspeed] Alert since the start of COVID,” Allien states. “With students isolated at home, this feature is incredibly valuable.”
This statistic has increased in meaning for Allien. “Just recently, our students took devices home when COVID hit, and we had a kid who was contemplating suicide. I got an email alert from Lightspeed [Alert], which I forwarded to their principal. The principal called their parents, and it was a legitimate threat. The student has since had some help, and I fear that without Lightspeed Alert that student may not be here with us today. That’s how real this is.”
For Allien, the speed and accuracy of this feature is critical to saving students’ lives. “Before Lightspeed Alert, when I would notice something concerning, I would have to go and dig down and take screenshots and share them with everyone who needed to be aware of the situation,” she notes. “Now with [Lightspeed] Alert it takes the screenshots for me. I can easily forward that screenshot straight to the principal, they can see what I’m looking at so we can talk about it, or I can send it right to a parent if they’re at home.”
How valuable are these features when it comes to protecting students? According to Allien, more valuable than words can describe. “If you can put a number above 100% valuable, then that’s how valuable it is,” says Allien. “The time saved when using this feature versus what I used to do is critical in saving a life. Lightspeed Alert screenshots the information for me, and I know immediately what I need to do.” She adds, “I have a 15-20 minute head-start with [Lightspeed] Alert, which is time saved when potentially saving a life.”
In addition to flagging for self-harm and suicide, Lightspeed Alert has been instrumental in flagging for violence, cyberbullying, and advanced attempts to bypass content filtering as well. “We’ve caught kids threatening each other, we’ve stopped fights in the hallways,” says Allien, “since Lightspeed [Alert], our students have started behaving a lot better.”
When asked if she would recommend Lightspeed Alert to other districts, Allien agreed wholeheartedly. “I can’t speak to [Lightspeed] Alert enough. I can say with 100% certainty that it’s saved lives, numerous ones.”