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Social media walks line between opinion and oppression

The extent to which administration should regulate what students can post on their social medias is controversial. Photo by Salvatore Ginexi

Social media enlightens and haunts students’ lives everyday. We see both ends of the spectrum at Bear River High School. On one hand, leadership utilizes social media to advertise games and events. Students use it to sport Bruin pride. On the other hand, students are being punished for what they post on their Snapchat stories, and TikTok is putting students in On Campus Intervention (OCI).

Bear River Principal Christopher Roberts assured the student body that Bear River’s discipline for digital acts is carried out in appropriate moderation. 

“Anything we have on our campus, as far as rules go, typically is directly related to the safety for our students,” he said. “And the education code is actually very specific to us where our long arm of the law can reach. We do everything in our power to follow the education code to the fullest extent and not extend our reach further than we have to.”

However, there is disagreement over the extent to which Bear River lives up to these claims. Several students have agreed to publicly share their stories and opinions about misusing social media. Junior Vanise Nunez gave her experience facing punishment for her presence in a post.  

“I was at Mel’s with my friends, and it was a Friday night,” she said. “It was at 10:00 p.m., and there was someone vaping. We were all there, and since we were in the video, someone took it to the school and reported it. So we all got (On Campus Suspension) OCS, and all that stuff. And I just don’t think that’s fair…”

Junior Rylee Prechter shared a similar story where her and her friends found themselves in trouble for a TikTok post. They were reprimanded for expressing hate toward a rival high school. Prechter and her friends were required to face various punishments.

“It was originally supposed to be a joke, but then it turned into something greater than that,” she said. “And people got hurt by it… We took a video flipping off Colfax in TikTok, and the cheerleaders got upset. … We had to write an apology letter to the principal and make a TikTok video showing good sportsmanship.”

Junior Micah Brown presented a different perspective on the matter. He shared his story of receiving discipline for misusing social media. However, Brown viewed his experience as a positive step toward bettering himself. 

“My freshman year, I posted something, and the school found out about it,” he said. “And I think, yes, I did deserve the consequence because it was stupid of me, and I did learn something from it. I just think people should not post about everything in their lives.”

Nunez disagreed with this position, stating that what she does outside of school is not Bear River’s business. 

“There are worse problems going on around here – people [vaping] at school,” she said. “That wasn’t at school… If I choose to make that decision or be around that outside of school, then that’s my choice. Don’t punish me for making my own decisions.”

Prechter concurred that Bear River has overstepped its boundaries in privacy and punishment, the aftermath of her actions being excessive. 

“I think it was a little bit much,” she said. “Like the OCI – what was that going to do? Just keeping us from class… I get the letter though, but the video I think is kind of stupid too.”

But Brown stood strong in his belief, explaining how Bear River is not crossing any lines with their social media policy. 

“I just think they are trying to protect our students and make sure we are on the right path,” he said. “Because, definitely, when I got my consequence, I went on a different path because I decided not to do that stuff anymore. So yes, I think the school should watch us carefully. I get why they do it.”

Former Bear River Principal Dr. Amy Besler has heard the voices of staff and students on this topic and laid out her experience with the issue during her time at Bear River.

“In my experience as a school administrator, students’ social media activity does not typically fall under the jurisdiction of the school,” she said. “There are a couple of notable exceptions – when something expressed through social media is brought to the attention of school staff that relates to potential harm to oneself or others or school property, there’s an ethical and moral obligation to intervene.”

Mr. Roberts expanded on this idea.

“If it takes place off campus on social media and finds its way on to campus in some capacity that we can find out that our students are unsafe, then we step in and intervene in that situation,” he said. “And that’s where consequences could come up.”

Mr. Roberts continued to explain how the school maintains responsibility over its students through “Portal-To-Portal” jurisdiction. 

“Once you leave your house in the morning and until you walk back into your house in the afternoon, you’re still under the jurisdiction of the school,” he said. “It’s a term that the state uses that the education code is very specific to. Again, it’s not that we want more work. But we find that we have a huge responsibility to protect students once they’ve walked out the door to come to school and once they walk back through the door. That’s our job.” 

At the end of the day, Mr. Roberts would like his students to know that Bear River only wants to keep them safe and help them thrive.

“I understand why kids may be upset,” he said. “But ultimately, it’s the same role a parent plays. As a dad, I have said many times, ‘You know, its seems like I may be playing the bad guy right now.’ But ultimately, I care about my kids just like I care about my students. We’re going to follow the rules one hundred percent, especially when it comes to the safety of the kids at school.”

Social media should be regulated for the safety of the community though students should be allowed to express themselves and display their choices online. There is a large gray area of what could be considered appropriate and inappropriate to post, however, I believe the only clear line of enforcement Bear River should have is over posts that present threat or endangerment of students or staff. 

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Social media walks line between opinion and oppression