Bark installed for schools

What’s all the bark about?


Luke Snavely

Bark for Schools has alerted countless schools of possible concerning searches on student accounts. On Oct. 30, Freedom installed the program on all school-issued computers.

On Feb. 14, 2018, tragedy struck Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Student Nikolas Cruz brought a gun and opened fire in the school, killing 17 innocent people. This devastating event came to be known as the Parkland Shooting. Red flags were ignored before the killer struck. For example, Cruz posted many concerning comments online that suggested thoughts of mass murder and becoming a school shooter. Although some people picked up on these red flags, many did not.

In response, Bark, a technology company that sells software for parents to monitor their children’s actions online, released a separate monitoring system to all U.S. schools for free called Bark for Schools.

On Oct. 30, Freedom implemented Bark for Schools on computers across the district. As a result, the new program will be used to monitor activity on student-operated devices.

Bark for Schools scans a wide variety of elements on the internet, such as emails, web searches, Google services, photos and more. The program looks to see if anything on the student’s laptop is a cause for concern. In particular, threats of violence, sexual content, suicidal thoughts, bullying, drug use and more will alert the system.

If Bark for Schools deems anything to be troubling, the program will immediately send out a notification to the school. The school can then review the alert and decide whether or not to investigate the situation and confront the student.

“At this time, our administration will be monitoring the reporting from Bark and will meet with students (and parents if necessary) if there is an incident that needs to be reviewed,” information technology director Marie Dohanich said.

Bark for Schools also offers a parent portal which can access alerts on school-issued accounts. However, as Dohanich said, Freedom will reach out to parents if they find anything alarming.

According to Bark, the monitoring program reported over 5.4 million potential issues in 2019. The most prevalent issue, with 892,670 potential cases, was instances of students attempting to buy, sell or take forbidden drugs. Following closely behind, with 878,670 potential issues, were instances of students searching nudity or explicit content.

Furthermore, the program has reportedly helped with even more serious cases. In fact, according to Bark, the program has assisted in eliminating 16 potential school shootings. With all of these statistics, adapting Bark for Schools was an easy decision for the information technology department at Freedom. 

“The tech department is always looking for additional tools to help our Administration and staff keep the students here at Freedom safe. Although nothing is perfect, we hope to do our best by implementing new tools to ensure our students can learn safely whether here on campus or at home,” Dohanich said.