Could artificial intelligence be the way to keep children safe from attacks in school? James Satterfield believes it is a big component.
His company Firestorm , in Atlanta, uses AI to sift through social media posts looking for threatening terms, pictures and phrases.
“If you can intervene when that first behavior becomes apparent, then we can stop that even from ever occurring, and that’s our goal,” Satterfield told CBS46.
He began focusing on school safety technology after his company was brought in to handle the Virginia Tech shooting crisis. They then began formulating a behavior risk assessment program using
“One of the things that we observed in that is that there were behaviors of concern back in elementary school, junior high, high school, all about that particular shooter,” Satterfied said. “If you’ll go back to all the recent shootings that you’ve seen around the country, then you see those patterns are repeated over and over again,” he added.
His company, which works with schools all across the country, contracts with more than 180 public and private schools in Georgia. Firestorm has a contract with the Georgia Independent Schools Association, which has at least 80 member schools in the Atlanta area. At least two dozens of those Atlanta private schools are already using the Firestorm technology.
The Firestorm team of only a handful of people use geomapping as it’s main social media monitoring method. It places a geo-fence around school districts and collects words, pictures, and phrases from students and adults who post to social media in those areas. The company notifies school leaders when they see concerning posts in the area.
The school can decide if they want to share that information with police.
“Our goal is to intervene as early as possible when there is a behavior of concern,” Satterfield said. “We are not a replacement for 911 in any way.”
Emory psychology professor and former president of the American Psychological Nadine Kaslow says social media monitoring needs to be used carefully.
“There is some suggestion that it may bias children who are children of color, who may be from certain religious backgrounds,” Kaslow cautioned about the practice. “Just like certain law enforcement may have biases, or sometimes unconscious biases, built into them, there is some concern that this kind of online monitoring with social media also may.”
Kaslow says there needs to be strategies to ward off violence and keep children safe. She says there needs to be more research on how effective social media monitoring is in preventing attacks versus targeting unintended youth.
“I think it’s reasonable to have this as a piece of the puzzle, but certainly not the only part of the major part,” Kaslow said. “We need to use it in a very thoughtful way and a way that doesn’t lead to biases and doesn’t harm children unnecessarily.”
Satterfield says Firestorm does not look at student’s private accounts, only posts on public sites and public pages.
The schools notify parents and teachers that the program is in use. Firestorm cannot disclose which local schools use their software.
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