Instagone

After a week of parody accounts and police reports, Frederick bans Instagram from school devices

A+screenshot+of+%40FHSBathroomShoes%2C+one+of+several+Frederick+parody+accounts+made+and+taken+down+in+the+past+week.+The+extent+of+parody+accounts+posting+potentially+harmful+content+about+Frederick+students+and+staff+have+led+to+Instagram+being+blocked+on+student+iPads+and+other+district+devices+accessible+by+students.+Yet+this+isnt+the+first+time+Frederick+has+gone+up+against+social+media+gone+bad--the+question+is%2C+will+it+be+the+last+time%3F

Julissa Solorzano

A screenshot of @FHSBathroomShoes, one of several Frederick parody accounts made and taken down in the past week. The extent of parody accounts posting potentially harmful content about Frederick students and staff have led to Instagram being blocked on student iPads and other district devices accessible by students. Yet this isn’t the first time Frederick has gone up against social media gone bad–the question is, will it be the last time?

By Julissa Solorzano, Frederick High School

Recently FHS students started a new trend: “Of FHS” Instagram accounts. Starting with @FHSBadParking, students would create accounts centered around FHS. @FrederickCaughtSleeping posted photos of students sleeping in class. @FrederickCaughtSlouching chronicled poor posture by students and teachers. There was even @DogsOutatFrederick, which posted photos of bare feet found around campus.

It was harmless fun… or so students thought. By the end of the week, the “Of FHS” pages led to phone calls to parents, police involvement, and the banning of a major social media platform from school devices.

Here’s what happened.

Frederick’s Newest Fad

Frederick High has had its up and downs with social media in recent years. Nearly every sport and club has an official Frederick Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account to reach out to students, parents, and the community at large. Frederick’s own social media account has been used to promote school events like conferences, boast about great student achievements, and even call out sports rivals with TikTok videos before major games–all with the blessing of school officials.

Even some not-so-sanctioned Frederick accounts have been allowed the past couple of years. Certain teachers like math teacher John Crosby and science teacher Ted Clapp have fan accounts made by students. Frederick Choirs have had a parody meme account for years for the students to post choir in-jokes and memes. And who can forget @SKOWarriors_, the original Frederick parody account formed in 2018 by FHS students?

Schools throughout the US, including Frederick, allow certain parody accounts to exist, as they are seen as a safety valve. Instead of getting frustrated with a teacher or school policy and doing something damaging, a student can instead feel better by posting a funny meme or venting on social media. However, sometimes Frederick’s admin has to play the bad guy when social media goes too far–when the safety valve doesn’t prevent damage but causes it.

Often, this comes as a result of cyberbullying, which is any action taken by a student, parent, or staff member to publicly or privately harass or demean another student, parent, or staff member. Yet in recent years, a slew of social media accounts claiming to be “official” Frederick accounts or accounts exposing the private information of students and teachers also caught the ire of Frederick.

This latest flood of Frederick accounts appears different at face value. These pages are in the vein of @humansofcarbonvalley but with a parody twist: instead of featuring amazing people in our community, these accounts feature less extraordinary people at Frederick. Those who slouch. Those who can’t spell. Those who can’t park. Some were even positive in nature, showing students enjoying themselves gaming and sleeping (albeit in class). One account, @WheresMegan, followed a Frederick sophomore around the school documenting her day. Another account even started ranking the other accounts based on how entertaining they were.

The Trend Turns Ugly

Unfortunately, some of these parody accounts were highly inappropriate. @frederick__hotties featured pictures of sophomore girls used without their consent and encouraged students to comment on their attractiveness. @FrederickHSMoms and @frederickdilfs similarly posted and rated student mothers and even staff members (a DILF, for those who are unfamiliar, is an attractive man who has children). @FHSNeedsSome420 took photos of students that look stressed and “need some weed.” These accounts and others were even using the names and contact information of FHS administration in their profiles.

The school got involved as soon as these pages came to light. On Wednesday, December 8, the office started to bring in students in droves to interrogate them about these pages and take them down. Many of these students claimed that they were protected by Freedom of Speech, yet as the Supreme Court acknowledged Mahoney Area School Dist v. B.L this past summer, these claims are limited when it changes from talking about the school to talking about people in the school.

“It’s very important to watch what you put on social media. We live in a day and age without guardrails, where if you post something, you could be committing a crime and not even know it,” said Mr. Brandon Coon, advisor to Frederick Journalism.

Mr. Coon teaches student media rights as part of his Journalism class curriculum, and he pointed out that no matter how innocent a parody account seems, it can expose student information or fall under the umbrella of cyberbullying. Take the @GingerzAtFreddy account–redheaded students are often discriminated for their red hair, and while an account featuring these students may seem harmless, it can encourage the bullying of these students. @HungryMFs featured Frederick students eating and got complaints from parents based on the fact that their child no longer felt safe eating at school–their child would starve all day because they were scared to be captured eating.

Other accounts broke privacy laws by accident. @BadParkingFHS was initially flagged not by administration but by other students for using their licence plate numbers in shots without any type of censorship. @FrederickBathroomShoes, while not capturing anything scandalous in the FHS bathrooms, breaks the law by posting photos taken in an occupied district bathroom facility. Policies that may be buried in the district policies or state legal code are suddenly relevant thanks to these accounts.

“Most of our privacy laws and our protection laws haven’t evolved to the technology we currently have. By putting the name “Frederick High School” and images taken on campus on those [accounts], they opened themselves up to school involvement,” said Mr. Coon.

Frederick Moves Forward

By now, most of these Instagram pages have been taken down by the administration, though some still pop up every day. Dr. Russell Fox, principal for Frederick High, expressed that while some accounts would regularly be ignored for their content, all accounts are being asked to be removed as it is hard to draw a line.

“There is a slippery slope–if someone were to say FHS Hotties is a harmless account, I would counter that I don’t love the idea of objectifying young men and women. I also don’t love the idea of taking their photos without their consent. I also don’t like the notion of “if I don’t make it, am I then not attractive?” I just don’t think that we should be taking pictures of people,” said Dr. Fox.

The idea of consent is especially given the fact that most students are minors. In order for a student’s photo to be taken and used on district social media (or to even use a photo for the yearbook or school newspaper), a student has to have a media release on Infinite Campus set up by their parents. A photo of a minor taken without parental consent is against the law, and while legal action is not usually taken for this, it sometimes leads to fines and even jail time. This means the office is taken this seriously.

“It’s frustrating to me because we could be doing other things right now. We could be helping kids with getting ready for finals. We could be helping teachers grade. But we are working on taking down Instagram accounts,” said Dr. Fox. “[Dealing with student legal issues] is part of the job, but it’s disheartening that this has been such a large part of my job the past couple of days.”

To help stem the tide of parody accounts, the school has blocked Instagram from iPads and other school devices. While this has helped, the question remains if this is a permanent solution. After all, lots of Frederick groups like the yearbook, student council, and the newspaper communicate to students through Instagram and other social media apps.

“It’s impossible to create a permanent solution,” Mr. Coon told us. “It’s like Whack-a-Mole: you take some accounts down, more later appear in their place.” Mr. Coon told us that he has been on both sides of this issue in the past: he worked with Instagram and administration to take down @FHSdrama last year (a parody account of @FHStheatre, the official school Thespian Instagram) but never complained about @coonislit, an account where students post embarrassing memes and videos of him. He believes that the only way to respond is to educate students about how to use social media properly:

“Some students will always act the fool on social media. All we can do is address each situation as it arises and inform students of their responsibilities as media users–and the consequences of abusing the power of the internet. We’re a school, and my greatest hope is that our kiddos learn from this incident.”

NOTE: By choice of the editors, no social media accounts will be linked to this story. We feel we are here to spread awareness, not indulge those making harmful content.

This story was originally published on Frerderick Scout on December 10, 2021.