Lakeridge investigates accounts seeking to 'cancel' students
At the start of the school year, Instagram accounts bearing the Lakeridge High School name started popping up, but they were neither affiliated with nor supported by the school. These accounts were created, presumably by students, for the purpose of "exposing" or "canceling" their fellow classmates or spreading other school-related gossip.
Lake Oswego School District's Director of Communications Mary Kay Larson said one such account was made for the purpose of outing students who were supporters of President Donald Trump.
These accounts had names like @lakeridge_teaa, @lakeridgedrama_ and @lakeridgehighconfessions.
Many of the accounts function under anonymity. Unknown students run the accounts, while others direct-message them with information that the account owners then screenshot and post, keeping the people who gave the information anonymous. @Lakeridgehighschooltea's last post on Aug. 30, for example, is a screenshot that reads "Two of the math teachers hooked up."
When the school got word of the accounts in September, Lakeridge Vice Principal Noah Hurd sent an email to students discouraging this behavior.
"When this comes from an anonymous account with the Lakeridge name attached, we are stepping into a new form of bullying that our school will need to address as this would be considered a serious violation of our harassment policy as well as using the Lakeridge name or symbol without the school's endorsement," the letter said. "If you know someone who owns one of these please tell that person to quickly shut it down. Also, if you have information about who owns the accounts listed below or any others of concern, please reach out to me directly via email to let me know."
Lakeridge High School senior and Lake Oswego Review student columnist Sara Shallenberger said she's glad the school is taking a public stance on the issue. Though she doesn't think the accounts are representative of Lakeridge as a whole, and calls it mostly an underclassmen issue, she did say the accounts are nothing new.
"Ever since middle school there have been accounts like that online," she said.
She said accounts used to "expose" people for what some may consider to be moral shortcomings are unproductive.
"I think that shaming people isn't the way to go," she said. "I think this is a show of immaturity by the people who are running these accounts."
Another Lakeridge student and Review columnist, Elizabeth Miller, felt similarly.
"I think that it's sad that students feel a need to put down others, period, but especially over social media where it is more public and humiliating," Miller said.
Shallenberger said her personal, in-person experience at Lakeridge has been nothing like the content on the accounts.
"My experience at Lakeridge has been one where people are very nice, people are very accepting," she said.
The district has yet to determine who is responsible for the numerous accounts.
"It's a challenge in trying to find out who owns the sites," Larson said.
Hurd said he spoke with the Lake Oswego Police Department about getting the identities from Instagram, something LOPD said wouldn't be a viable option.
"I think a lot of the kids who are even posting to the sites themselves don't know who the owner of the site is," Hurd said.
As far as consequences go, Hurd said it would depend on the severity of the content on the accounts. If he's able to find out who's responsible for the accounts, the school will follow the standard policy according to the severity of the content.
"Shining a light on it has helped a lot," Hurd said.
The accounts he listed in his email to students at the start of the school year have since been quiet. But that doesn't stop new ones from popping up.
Shallenberger doesn't see a way to stop that.
"I don't think it's easy for the administration to use the Internet to crack down on those people … I think it needs to start in the schools and it needs to start in our culture," she said.
As Hurd said: Kids talk, which is why he encouraged any student who knew anything to come forward. Right now, that's the district's best bet in curtailing the situation.
"I just look at it as something that has the potential to be really bad and I think that's why I was so proactive about it at the beginning of the year," he said.
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