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UPDATED STORY: It’s Time For A Confession: CVUSD Needs To Change Its Cyber-Bullying Policy

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UPDATED STORY: It’s Time For A Confession: CVUSD Needs To Change Its Cyber-Bullying Policy

Students are finding out about

Students are finding out about "dlhsconfessions". A page that bullies students and staff constantly grows due to the anonymous comments people are allowed to make.

Anthony Romero

Students are finding out about "dlhsconfessions". A page that bullies students and staff constantly grows due to the anonymous comments people are allowed to make.

Anthony Romero

Anthony Romero

Students are finding out about "dlhsconfessions". A page that bullies students and staff constantly grows due to the anonymous comments people are allowed to make.

Editorial Staff

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Social media is an inescapable force, a place of cat videos, family photos and unfortunately, bullying. For reasons beyond us, Don Lugo High School students, and alumni seem to take pride in not having pride. Three weeks ago, the Quest News Staff began investigating a public Instagram page that has been up since June 29 of 2017 with 174 posts, by the name of “dlhsconfessions”.  This account posts anonymous confessions from individuals relevant to the staff and students of Don Lugo. These posts contain rude and offensive confessions, although the account’s owner or owners continuously claim the page is a “safe place”, but the posts borderline on bullying, defamation, and hate speech.

OUR VIEW: We of the Quest News Staff do not stand for behavior that destroys the pride of our school or breaks our school’s code of, “Be respectful, Be responsible and Be involved.”

The confessions page claims to give students a place to rant, but the only thing these students remarks are accomplishing is harming the school’s reputation, disparaging the reputations of teachers, and allegedly causing drama among students. Contributors to this post and the moderators are putting themselves at risk for disciplinary action and possibly legal action since some of the confessions have inferred that there are students in possession of child pornography. Moderators have allowed for the flaming of negative rumors and hate speech about specific groups and inappropriate comments about staff members on campus.

According to the posts and moderators, no one is safe from these destructive comments.

The LGBTQ+ Community is a target for cyberbullying. The Lucille Packard Foundation of Children’s Data, a non-profit organization that collects data from the Population Reference Bureau, WestEd, and the California Department of Education, reported that 48% of the GSA community at CVUSD was the largest group to consider suicide in the previous year.

Other schools such as Chino Hills, Ayala, Canyon Hills and Townsend Jr. High have also had similar accounts in the past; the most concerning of these accounts is a recently deleted student-run page at Townsend Jr. High School that posted pictures taken of girl’s behinds without their knowledge, while posting sexual comments. However, these accounts have either been taken down or are inactive. Don Lugo is currently the only school with a confessions page open for public view in our district. So why hasn’t the DLHS Confessions page been taken down?

When it comes to social media, the law has a large grey area. According to the Director of the Brechner Center of Freedom at the University of Florida, Legal Professor Frank LoMonte explains, “…the scope of a school’s authority over social media is still uncertain. We know for sure that students cannot have FEWER rights on social media than they would have inside the school.”

In order to understand students 1st Amendment Rights in a public school setting, the community, and the school has to ask themselves, “Would this speech be punishable if said inside a hallway? What about to a group of friends at a lunch table?” Most of us would say no. We might even suggest that the kind of ridicule found on this confessions page is just kids “blowing off steam.”

According to LoMonte, “I feel pretty sure, [this would] be protected speech…We know for sure that a school can regulate anything that suggests violence against school employees or students, that much is clear. Where it gets grey is name calling, insults, and speech that borders on defamation.”

If the type of comments made on this confessions page were to be shouted in the center of the quad, consequences would be inevitable! The outbursts of a perpetrator that disrupts a school environment would most likely face suspension or some other disciplinary action. So how is posting the disgusting comments on a public forum with 291 followers a fair comparison to an intimate hallway or lunch table conversation? It’s not. In our opinion, blowing off steam that borders on hate speech and defamation to a public audience online is a closer comparison to someone shouting obscenities in the quad. This is not just a grey area for public schools, it’s a huge grey area for the law and needs to be addressed.

Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) states in their district policies, “Cyberbullying includes the creation of transmission of harassing communications, direct threats, or other harmful texts, sounds or images on the internet.” This policy is outdated and too general. There is no outline nor definition on what is considered harmful texts, and social media has evolved to the point where “direct threats” aren’t the only thing that should raise concern among the school district due to the accessibility of social media.

Cyber-bullying is a rising problem via social media. Bullying follows students wherever they go, kids can no longer go home to escape their attackers. Medical News Today references the effect social media has on suicide, “Cyberbullying is more strongly related to suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents than traditional bullying, according to a new analysis published in JAMA Pediatrics.”

The California Healthy Kids Survey taken by CVUSD students last year reports, “12% of ninth graders and 20% of eleventh graders answered “yes” to having seriously considered attempting suicide within the past 12 months.” There has been a rise in accounts such as this, and coincidentally, there has been a rise in the numbers of students claiming to feel suicidal. Those of us who have been affected by loss due to suicide know that cyberbullying can play a role in suicide attempts. In fact, Dr. Cabrera explains, “If someone kills themselves as a result of social media they are responsible for that death.”

If someone kills themselves as a result of social media they are responsible for that death. ”

— Dr. Kimberly Cabrera, Principal Don Antonio Lugo High School

The rise in teenage suicide should be all the evidence we need to see the true consequences of spreading hate and bullying. In just two decades suicide has increased by 25% according to CNN, and The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that “suicide is the second leading cause of death for those between 10 and 24 years of age.” Teachers and staff are trying to find ways to put an end to these alarming and increasing suicide rates, but as bullying continues and social media becomes more accessible, it becomes a much harder task. The “dlhsconfessions” Instagram page is a dangerous warning to schools, school districts, the state, and the law.

In order to prevent bad impressions, we suggest asking Instagram to verify high school-run accounts, so these anti-school pride pages do not appear when people look up their schools. There are other pages that are verified on Instagram, and apps such as Snapchat are just one example of taking responsibility for designated school accounts, where schools are able to get their accounts recognized as official, rather than student-created.  Schools should strive to have social media accounts that constantly post and interact with students in order to divert attention from pessimistic accounts like dlhsconfessions.

Although the Instagram account cannot be taken down by the school, it is our intention to continue reporting its contributors and moderators to Instagram.

As one of several leadership organizations on our campus representing the ideals that leaders like Dr. Kimberly Cabrera have worked so hard to protect, the staff of Quest News is asking our school and community to join in the fight that will eventually bring awareness to social media activity by first: reporting evil like this page, its moderators, and its contributors. Second, informing parents that they are the only defense to bad online social media behavior before some sort of regulatory agency steps in, and third, to help us inform lawmakers about a grey area of the law that could be contributing to increased rates of suicide in our county and in our district.

We have a responsibility to report any hateful behavior we see at our school, but there is only so much we students can do about social media and cyberbullying.  CVUSD has the responsibility to keep students safe and sometimes that means clarifying social media behavior expectations through board policies that are clear, but more importantly, expectations that help students understand when they’ve crossed the line and have put themselves in danger of more severe consequences.

Social Media has evolved. Over and over, we’ve heard our generation referred to as the product of 21st-century teaching, but we have to include education in social media for that statement to be true. It is a part of our everyday lives. We need the law to change and the grey area reconciled if we are to keep our schools free from bullying and reduce our increased suicide rates. No one should ever feel unsafe or threatened by what’s said online. It’s time for our district and state to address the grey area of student-run social media pages that destroy a school’s culture, reputation, and puts their student body at emotional risk. The result of not addressing this issue will undoubtedly be disastrous.

STORY UPDATE 10/7/2018:

As of 12:46 p.m., the moderator of the dlhsconfessions page abandoned the page and ceased posting. As of 9:36 p.m. that same day, Instagram had removed the page completely. This information was shared with the CVUSD board members at 7:20 pm on October 8.

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About the Photographer
Anthony Romero, Editor-in-Chief

anthony@dalquestnews.org

4 Comments

4 Responses to “UPDATED STORY: It’s Time For A Confession: CVUSD Needs To Change Its Cyber-Bullying Policy”

  1. Sophie Yu on October 3rd, 2018 6:45 pm

    Awesome article! I appreciate the insight and passion in addressing this important and critical issue. Stay viligant!

  2. Kaitlyn Valenzuela on October 3rd, 2018 11:03 pm

    BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN!!! this is a very powerful and informative article!!!

  3. Mark Williams on October 4th, 2018 5:45 am

    That was a very well written article! Great job!
    Perhaps the problem here isn’t the exercise of free speech, but the fact it’s being done anonymously. To paraphrase Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, “With great (freedom) comes great responsibility.”

  4. Brandie on October 4th, 2018 2:02 pm

    Thank you for informing the community about this issue! This is what journalism is all about. Quest News, you did an AMAZING job. I’m so proud. ❤️

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