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Bridging the Trust Gap

There is a gap in trust between students and their educators causing a systemic breakdown in communication. We’ll take a look at the causes of that gap in trust from both the student and educator side and what can be done to address mutual concerns.

Educators expect students to willingly disclose their social emotional concerns as they arise. However, this expectation is enforced by student surveillance– apps like Gaggle and Bark filter students email, social media, search results and Google Drive through tracking online habits. These apps are intended to catch threats before they become incidents. These apps are simple way for schools to passively meet mandatory reporting requirements and can make educators feel as though they’re doing all they can.

When we attend counselor and administrator conferences, we hear horror stories of these apps gone awry. These apps bring in falsely flagged mentions of suicide, self harm and other triggers bring students into school counselors offices with their parents without further investigation. This automated process, as we often hear, floods already overworked school counselors with additional meetings, paperwork and procedure that make students feel less able to freely communicate, research, and trust that their school is there to help them.

This creates a trust gap from the students side. Feeling surveilled, these tiplines decrease student trust in communicating with the administration that is watching them, creating a trust gap. If students feel constantly surveilled, a gap in trust develops. They become less likely to communicate with educators, using the same channels in which they’re being watched.

Relying on automated mechanisms for identifying problems in students prevents them from communicating with educators. The only way to rebuild that trust is to create channels to get students talking with educators. What is the best way to go about that?

Encouraging and facilitating conversations.

Giving students new confidential channels to communicate with educators in which they don’t feel surveilled is critical to bridging that gap in trust. Use of technology in reporting is enormously helpful in encouraging student communication with educators. Channels that use students own devices are especially helpful in making students feel secure enough to disclose. Confidential channels in which student names aren’t given are also necessary to students feeling safe enough to disclose.
Don’t let students feel like their school is a police state. The only way to bridge the trust gap with students is through offering safe channels for open communication. The more trust you have in students, the more they’ll have in their administration. It’s just that simple.

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Using only the latest research on bullying and mental health, Kacy supports evidence based education practices for all educators, including school counselors, administrators, psychologists, teachers and school resource officers.

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