Editorial: Is Big Brother watching?


Schools have the responsibility and duty to keep students safe and protected. But where is the line drawn? Where should educators’ involvement end?

Students at Granite Bay High School have a newfound interest in this question, and unsurprisingly, in a very 21st century way.

A recent Instagram phenomenon has swept GBHS, and the appropriateness of it has students questioning their privacy.

An account by the handle of @deerobins63 has surfaced, quite mysteriously. With proportionally few followers, no profile picture, and no biography, any millennial could tell you the page raises skepticism.

But there’s more.

The account currently follows 1,215 people, nearly all of whom are students at GBHS. One would normally assume, then, that this account would belong to one of their peers.

However, the Gazette staff was able to confirm there is no student at this high school named “Danielle Robins,” as cited on the account.

Many students have speculated that the account is run by an administrator and is used to secretly oversee social media activity of GBHS students.

While ensuring online safety on campus is an important aspect of an administration’s role, the possibility of this “admin” account raises boundary concerns.

For decades, students and school administrators across the nation have battled over the ever-grayish definition of student rights.

Typically, Constitutional rights are the point of concern, as in the U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker vs. Des Moines.

In the ruling, the court set the precedent that “students don’t shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gates.”

Unfortunately, the internet was not around at the conception of the Constitution, and so rights in that realm remain largely ambiguous.

Thus, students don’t lose their rights, but they are still subject to having them infringed upon.

Typically, American schools justify their role in monitoring students’ lives based on the legal concept of in loco parentis.

Simply put, the Latin phrase means that when students are on campus (or headed there or home before or after school), the school is responsible for students and should be considered to be each student’s parent.

There are no set of concrete school/parent guidelines, and surely inconsistencies prevent them from being created. However parental supervision in this day and age has grown to normally include monitoring the use of the internet for  many teenagers.

But, is that an appropriate role for school administrators to assume?

Well, maybe.

It is sensible that schools monitor students’ social media and internet activity in cases of cyberbullying or threats.

However, is oversight of non-school related social media a reasonable expectation of school officials?

And is it reasonable for it to go on when students are not aware of it?

The GBHS administration is no stranger to becoming involved in students’ social media or even group conversations in the past, but those incidents were related to school activities.

The Gazette is by no means certain of the ownership of the @deerobins63 account. However, we feel that if our school administration is behind this social media account, it is pushing boundaries.

Posing as a fellow student would not only be inappropriate and invasive, but it makes students feel quite uncomfortable.

For many private users on Instagram, the peace of mind of knowing who is seeing personal posts is taken away with this kind of infiltration.

A potential secret administration account might not violate student rights, but it does violate student privacy and consent.

The true identity of @deerobins63 might never be known, but regardless, The Gazette believes that the administration should heed appropriate boundaries when it comes to monitoring student online activities.

An account like this – if it’s owned by the GBHS administration – is wildly inappropriate.