Administration confirms no surveillance of student social media

Schools across US adopt surveillance policies to monitor safety threats, NT hasn’t

Juniors McKenna Fox, Shelby Jacob, and Summer Wheeler pose for a Snapchat selfie during a free period


Juniors McKenna Fox, Shelby Jacob, and Summer Wheeler pose for a Snapchat selfie during a free period

After a number of highly publicized school shootings, dozens of schools have invested resources into hiring social media monitoring companies to ensure student safety.

According to The New York Times, more than 100 public schools and universities have invested in policies aimed at preventing shootings, including Michigan State and Florida State Universities.

However, the school has not considered hiring social media monitoring companies and there have been no formal social media companies to monitor students because the school has no major concerns regarding student safety.

“NT does receive reports and tips that help guide the school’s director of security,” said Assistant Principal of Student Programs and Operations, Athena Arvanitis.

Arvanitis believes by having a healthy relationship with kids and teachers, school violence will be prevented.

“The vast majority of research on this topic stresses the importance of student connections to school as a prevention measurement,” she said.

“At New Trier, we are fortunate our staff works hard to create opportunities for students to engage in and be connected to school while also focusing on developing positive relationships with students,” said Arvanitis.

“When deciding how to allocate school funds it is important for schools to consider what it is they are getting from the dollars spent, and if the expense is worth it. The more information schools have regarding students’ wellbeing, the better they are able to support and serve their students,” she said.

Despite the fact that dozens of schools have adopted contracts with monitoring companies, there has been little to no proof that social monitoring systems are useful.

Junior Jeremy Lau said, “I highly doubt the school’s attempts will pull anything useful. Other schools have done this and it’s more for the hype than actual results. Other schools have had little to no results at all.”

However, Hardware Software Engineer Anthony Catalano believes it would be good for the school to implement a social media monitoring system.

“Especially with the violence that’s going on around the world, adding an extra level of security is not a bad idea. It all depends on the type of social media. One reason why NT blocked social media during the school day is to make sure social media doesn’t provoke bullying or things of that nature,” said Catalano.

While many students think monitoring social media could prevent school violence, they don’t think the school should hire a monitoring system.

Senior Stephanie Kacius said, “I don’t think New Trier should hire a social media monitoring system just because I feel like it would be a huge invasion of privacy even if some students’ profiles are public. Security becomes too much when it starts to interfere with students’ lives outside of school and when it takes away from the experience of whatever it is that is being monitored.”

Lau believes if the school tried adopting this extra level of security, students and parents would be against it.

“Students, especially in this area, will go into an uproar over this breach of privacy. One of the only ways the school can actually pull this off is if New Trier does it overnight without telling anyone,” said Lau.

Arvanitis said, “being in a high school and working with teenagers who are likely to make mistakes or do something on accident, we focus on turning those instances into moment of individual growth.

However, if a student were to get to that place, of safety concern, our response will likely still focus on learning and personal growth but in a different way that may require more support from others,” said Arvanitis.

Assistant Principal Scott Williams has encountered and addressed concerns from social media.

“NT has received multiple reports and concerns through social media. We have addressed those issues and cases. NT also works in conjunction with the Winnetka Police department, people throughout the school and parents as well,” said Williams.

While addressing those concerns, Williams biggest concern is whether a comment or a threat is real or not.

“That’s the biggest challenge. When we view comments on social media we never know the context and you can’t tell the meaning behind words online. However, if we had a concern from someone, we would be sure to follow up in a way which ensured the safety of all students,” said Williams.

Senior Maggie Graves has not encountered any threats or cruel comments on social media. However, Graves believes students are desperate to do anything to get their name out in school.

“Students these days are insecure with themselves. Students say things that they think will help them ‘fit in’ or ‘become popular’, but in reality, these comments are scary and only end up hurting them even more than they expected, ”said Graves.

Catalano believes the biggest challenge is to find the fine line between privacy and safety.

“We don’t want students to feel like they are being watched, but we also want to make sure students are browsing safely.” Arvanitis believes that the school draws the line when there is something you see or hear, whether it is through social media or at school, that may have a negative impact on a student and their ability to be successful at school.

“Everyone has a right to privacy and can choose to keep things to themselves. When someone’s behavior becomes concerning, that’s when it’s important to say something.

“We want and hope students speak out and tell us when they see or hear something that is concerning,” said Arvanitis.