In what seems like a replay from last year, more JHS labeled and unofficial Instagram accounts are active.
Last school year, Instagram accounts that highlighted anything from backpacks to bananas populated the social media app. This year, more accounts have popped up including accounts that highlight crushes and confessions via Google Forms.
“Basically, you know, if you’re creating an account that includes the school, even whether you say it’s not representing the school or not, you’re still included,” principal Gary Comalander said. “If there is anything on that account, that is demeaning or goes against the code of conduct, like taking pictures of people without their permission, because it’s against the rules to take pictures or videos on campus of others (unless it is an approved event), then that person can get into a lot of trouble through the student code of conduct including from ISS all the way up to possibly referral to alternative school, depending on what has occurred. So you got to be very careful, you know, social media.”
Senior Mariana Lara Lozada said that she saw a picture of herself on one of the accounts.
“I was very surprised because it just came like on Instagram, I was looking at the pages or all the JHS accounts, because I was bored. I just came across and I was like, is that me? I was just so surprised, I didn’t know what to do, like I was just shocked. I saw the caption saying that they like my backpack. I kind of liked it because people were commenting good stuff about my backpack. A couple of weeks later, I saw another girl wearing the same backpack. So I was like, oh my god, I think I’m influencing people,” Lara Lozada said. “I actually made a TikTok video that blew up about what happened on the page. A lot of people were like, oh my god, that’s crazy.”
Even if the account includes no pictures of students, the people involved with the account can still get in trouble.
“If they’re having people fill out Google Forms, which I’ve seen that even though it’s not pictured, if people are posting stuff that can be demeaning, or considered possibly bullying other students because of what they say, on those Google Forms. Then the owner of the account is posting that for everybody, then yes, they can get just as much trouble for being considered inappropriate,” Comalander said.
Changing the settings to private also does not save you from potential liability.
“There’s no such thing as private. Private just means you’re trying to limit who can see it, but you have no control over someone screenshotting it and sharing it to everyone publicly once it’s out there. If it shows up where people can see it, then you can get just as much trouble. If I show it to one person, I have no control over what they do with it. So it doesn’t really change anything,” Comalander said.
Getting consent from the people on the picture does not lower the chances of being reprimanded. According to admin, sometimes there is no way to prove that – even if it’s from a third person.
“Is that better? Yes, by all means, but you know, how do you prove that? That’s always the challenge, you know, because a lot of those pictures and videos come from others that have taken it from somebody and then send it to the owner of the site, and so knowing whether or not the person ever had consent or not, you’re now maybe trusting a third person.”
When the same issue occurred last school year, some of these accounts were tracked by investigation, the use of police and forensics.
“Well, investigating, not going to share all the secrets, but when somebody does post something, there’s lots of ways to find out. Sometimes it’s tips from other people that are in the group. Sometimes it’s through our police, what we call forensics experts who know how to search social media, especially when it’s something that’s very inappropriate and were able to get them to do some searching to find out who the owners are. So there’s lots of ways to dig into it. Hopefully, just nobody’s putting things up there that’s inappropriate,” Comalander said. “I’ve seen ones that just show cars in the parking lot. Well, I mean, that’s okay until people start making comments that are not okay. If those are monitored and not visible to others, okay, but if people are now making fun of someone through comments, then once again, the owners of putting that post out there are still responsible. So it’s not always the picture that necessarily is the problem. Sometimes it is the comments being made by others, based on the picture that’s out there.”
Even when the comments are disabled, people can still take screenshots and share it around with comments about it.
“Let’s say there’s no comments or so comments. There’s a lot of different situations or what is fine, what is a little not okay, and what’s really not okay. So it’s hard to clarify everything. But when you’re representing a school now you are under the student code of conduct, David’s law for bullying, and social media. You bring yourself as the owner of the site that you can be brought up for consequences if something is not right on that side, because you’re now representing the school. So that’s where people have to be very careful,” Comalander said.
The school can work to minimize the amount of JHS accounts that are active, but there’s no way to get rid of them or avoid the creation of one.
“[It’s] very difficult. Yeah, there’s, you know, just making good decisions about what people do and just understanding those rules and laws,” Comalander said. “As far as preventing it, you can’t. I mean, anybody, unfortunately, can create anything they want and social media didn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it okay.”
Admin wants students to know that if a student encounters something that can be demeaning or has the risk of hurting someone, it’s best to let the school know as soon as possible.
“Yeah, just the time that someone has something that is upsetting, please let us know and give us whether a screenshot or information so we can help deal with it,” Comalander said.