District Discord: How predators are reaching students on school-issued laptops

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Online safety for children is challenging for many parents.
When one Bakersfield father found out his daughter accessed inappropriate websites on a school issued computer — he was horrified.

The 10-year-old girl had access to Discord, an online communication service, using her Bakersfield City School District issued computer.

Carl’s Jr.’s AI drive-thru arrives in Bakersfield

She created the account using her school email. Her father is outraged as this site allowed her to have explicit conversations with a possible predator in Texas. “They dropped the ball, they dropped the ball big time,” Michael Gridley, the father of the victim, said.

He was trying to print a book report from his daughter’s school issued Chromebook– when he saw a strange tab.

His fifth grader had used her school credentials on a school issued laptop on the platform Discord. She exchanged explicit remarks with someone claiming to be a 14-year-old transgender boy.

The father says there were horrifying remarks between the two resembling grooming, like:

PERSON IN TEXAS: “We can do a school roleplay when we meet at school but first we start off as strangers, then friends. And then you’re hanging out with your friends, I am too. Then– we become lovers.”

Gridley thinks all signs of grooming are there.

PERSON IN TEXAS: “I miss you so much.” “I mean, if you wanna give me a kiss, just say that.”

“That was my little girl, I know that she was going to become a woman but I just didn’t want it to happen at ten-years-old,” Gridley said.

He says all controls that limit what websites students have access to, were automatically switched off every day in the afternoon.

The Bakersfield City School District says the girl’s access to Discord wasn’t an anomaly — it was deliberate.

Never miss a story – Make KGET.com your homepage

“Discord was made available to our district, because we offer a program called ‘e-sports,’ it’s electronic sports, it’s opportunity for students. Last year it was junior high, this year we’ve added a couple elementary schools. They game, they play against a variety of schools in the district and a variety of schools outside of the district.”

The terms and conditions of Discord prohibits anyone under the age of 13 from making an account.

Being that elementary school kids are under the age of 13, the father of the victim doesn’t understand why the access to the site was encouraged and doesn’t understand why he wasn’t notified about the access.

“The Discord application was made available in the afternoon hours between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., to allow teams to schedule and hold those games with other agencies,” Mark Luque, the Superintendent of Bakersfield City School District said.

Discord was suspended from BCSD students after 17 News started asking questions.

Luque states that he was unaware of the incident until we told him — he says there were also over 1,000 “authentic” users of Discord in BCSD: this is the only instance like this that they are aware of.

“Until we know what potentially is going on, we tend not to dig too deep into a student’s use. We can monitor how many hours they’re using their computer, we can monitor what time of day that they’re on their computer, but we tend not to go any deeper than that unless we have a reason to,” Luque said.

Never miss a story – Make KGET.com your homepage

Gridley continuously kept up with basic security measures of all devices accessible to his child, and doesn’t understand how the district would make a website, with a history of abuse, accessible without notifying.

NBC News reported last June that since the platform’s creation in 2015, at least 35 child abduction, grooming, or exploitation prosecutions involved communications via Discord, and 165 child sexual abuse material prosecutions involved the platform.

Luque says no security measures were implemented on the website to alert if potential abuse was happening.

The Chromebook that the 10-year-old girl had was seized by local law enforcement to look into the person claiming that they are a 14-year-old transgender boy, as they might be a predator instead.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to KGET 17.