GoGuardian’s “digital footprint” sparks controversy


The online program GoGuardian has been attached to the school email account –– not just the Chromebook device –– of every student in the Clark County School District in light of the move to online classes. GoGuardian keeps a “digital footprint” of students’ actions online, and students feel their technology usage has been overly restricted.

The goal of the program is to keep students on task as they navigate through classes from home, according to assistant principal Michael Oliver. Students can also be more easily identified if they cause disruptions in class. In the last few weeks, students have been entering Meets to shout profane language, blast inappropriate music or mess with other students. 

“It provides accountability for students by monitoring their online behavior,” principal Tam Larnerd said “At the start of this year, there were students around the district making inappropriate online choices. Once they realized that their ‘digital footprint’ is irrefutable evidence, the number of incidents has declined significantly.”

 Disciplinary measures follow when students violate the school’s Acceptable Use Policy. GoGuardian also works as a classroom or in-house similar to Canvas, the program students are currently using to complete course work. Oliver transfers insubordinate students into the GoGuardian class to complete work there during the school day.

The program goes as far as to notify administrators directly when a student looks up a restricted website, but the restrictions are not limited to explicit content. Students are finding that websites such as YouTube and MathWay are on the list of banned sites, both of which are commonly used for help with coursework.

“I think there are better ways to implement the program to keep kids from feeling like they’re walking on eggshells,” sophomore Yunus Schersei said.

According to Schersei, his initial experience with GoGuardian, which was back in summer for APEX learning, led to mishaps when he would research topics and terminology relating to the sex education course for health class.

“I never really liked [Go Guardian] due to it just flagging certain terms without the context of the situation,”  Schersei said. “I was the only one with the Chromebook at the time, [and] without a phone, it was just frustrating.”

While Schersei believes that the extension helps admin keep dangerous online activity in check, he thinks that there should be some form of tolerance in place that avoids students getting reprimanded immediately, even through simple misunderstandings.

“A phone call straight home is very embarrassing, especially for a one time mistake,” Schersei said. “I’d much rather get a warning first via email or such, so I can get my act together, then progressive discipline from there.” 

Students feel that GoGuardian restricts too much when it prevents them from looking up things that relate to homework.

“I think I should be able to go on MathWay and check my answers without getting in trouble,” sophomore Cassie Aizman said. 

The use of GoGuardian was a district-wide choice, so schools were unable to refuse the program. However, the administration still finds GoGuardian to be beneficial for keeping students on track. 

“It helps to ensure students are staying safe and making good choices online,” said Heather Pittman, the ninth grade house administrator.

Students generally remain understanding of the implementation of Go Guardian. However, they still feel as if they have to tip-toe around while getting used to the new online environment.

“It just feels weird to know someone is always watching every little step,” Schersei said. “It doesn’t make me have the best learning environment in a way, especially [with] the entirety of school being on these little Chromebooks.”

According to Pittman, students should only be working on school when classes are in session, but there is some leniency. 

“Keep in mind that your purpose during the school day is to focus on education,” Pittman said. “That means you’re on sites that are related to whatever you are working on in your classes. There’s nothing wrong with listening to music while getting your studies done. However, keep in mind the type of music you’re listening to. We will know when you go to YouTube and see what musical selections you’re choosing.”