Geo Listening

Two Crescenta Valley High School students add touch ups to the image projected on to their monitor. The Glendale Unified school board hired a company to monitor students' public posts on social networks, sparking mixed response from students. (File Photo) (August 31, 2013)

It did not surprise us when there was a bit of an outcry, primarily from teens, over this week's revelation that the Glendale Unified school board has approved a $40,500 contract with a firm that monitors students' public posts on social media networks.

We understand that there is a Big Brother feel to having an outside agency scrutinizing anyone's comments for any reason, noble or not.

We do think the complaints are slightly overwrought, inasmuch as Twitter, for one, is a very public platform. It was designed to be so and anyone tweeting out messages ought to know they can have no expectation of privacy.

And youths who have not yet grasped that fact might also benefit from the lesson that anything they share online today may have not only an immediate impact, but could possibly come back to haunt them months, years or decades from now.

Glendale Unified's association with Geo Listening, the monitoring firm it has employed, began after a Crescenta Valley High School student committed suicide on campus. The partnership was originally a pilot program that, according to Supt. Dick Sheehan, has already illuminated cases of cyber-bullying and potential self-harming activities. So its expanded use may well keep more students safe and focused on learning. There's no apparent downside to those good intentions.

However, what troubles and surprises us is that Glendale school officials shrouded this monitoring program to a degree by quietly approving it on a consent agenda, which requires no public hearing or discussion.

The students have every right to know that an agency is monitoring their tweets and posts, and they and their parents should have been given the opportunity to weigh in.