By Ally Branch and Charley Conner
On Aug. 24, 2020 students at San Marin anonymously created a Conservative Instagram account by the name of “Republicans of San Marin.” In response, another account was made using San Marin High School’s (SMHS) name and logo supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM). Their bio stated “F— Trump, f— ICE.”
These rigid, polarizing opinions create “the most intense political environment since the 1960’s,” government, economics and psychology teacher Mike Spinrad said.
Both accounts were under fire by fellow students and the comments were filled with both hate and praise which sparked debates among members of the San Marin community. One comment section debated the term “tolerant left,” a term sometimes used as an insult by Conservatives when opinions are not shared between parties.
Principal Mark Sims was informed about these accounts almost immediately on the night of Aug. 24. Later he issued a statement to the entire San Marin community. He first addressed social media accounts, “Zoom Bombings,” as well as racial comments.
In his statement he voiced that San Marin has an obligation to support its people of color. He also acknowledged that the plea for social justice made by the BLM movement can no longer be ignored.
“Tackling these incidents will be a daunting task, but it is one I am honored to take on with the support of our students and school community,” Sims said.
In addition, Sims also addressed the use of the SMHS logo without consent.
“The Republicans for San Marin account is, without permission, using a San Marin High School logo, identifying with a political party, and using hate speech and racial epithets,” Sims said. “This language and ideology has no place in education and will not be tolerated.”
With the support of the community and the district office he let out a list of changes to seize the opportunity for change. These include opportunities for student dialogue, student led affinity groups, as well as conflict resolution and restorative practices.
The person running the BLM account preferred to be anonymous. When they were asked why they made the account under San Marin’s name they replied, “Because I go there and there are a lot of racists.”
According to the Student Press Law Center using the San Marin name is legal.
“It is legal to use San Marin’s name as long as it is clear the account isn’t officially affiliated with the school,” Senior Legal Counsel Mike Hiestand said.
San Marin cannot punish students for their use of social media unless students choose to be obscene, bully, or threaten violence.
“Using logos with copyright and trademark claims could cause legal problems,” Hiestand said.
The accounts that use San Marin logos, not just the school name, are not permitted to do so because of copyright claims on those logos. The school could file a lawsuit against those infringing on the claims, though they do not seem to be interested in taking action.
These were not the only accounts created. Five more political accounts either using San Marin’s name or affiliated with students were seen on social media. Some of these accounts used inappropriate language and offensive terms to call out specific students. Two of the accounts clearly identified themselves with the school and used its logos.
“When you use a school logo, it is construed that the school is voicing and using that kind of behavior, meaning the district is supporting those actions,” Sims said. “That becomes problematic.”
Many people in the community have pointed out that the discussion of politics is almost unavoidable in today’s climate.
“Conversations about politics come up on their own because it’s in the media so much,” Spinrad said.
With the election only about five weeks away, the news is filled with information and debates about political beliefs.
“Our society is currently fractured and it is making it all the more difficult to handle these situations,” Sims said.
One of the bigger questions is how much San Marin should be intervening. San Marin is normally responsible for students from when they leave their house in the morning until they arrive at home in the afternoon. With online learning and the new schedule, the lines are blurred and it has become uncertain regarding when the school is responsible for the students. These accounts give students the opportunity to debate and speak openly about their opinions.
“If any student has taken action and physically hurt someone based on race or anything else then action should be taken but words are just words,” the owner of the Instagram account sanmarin.trump2020 said.
When asked, both people administering an account wanted to stay anonymous out of fear of reprisal from their peers. One student said they received a death threat for making the account.
“I’m less interested in who started it, and more interested in a guided conversation working towards understanding one another and removing the school logos from these accounts,” Sims said.
The use of racial slurs, and what some would consider hate speech, directed at certain groups of people is a trend among the accounts. The comment sections on the accounts display the same amount of discriminatory language.
“Racism is an epidemic we are facing right now, and people are hiding behind their political parties,” senior Elizabeth Deruvo said.
As of now, the accounts remain unclaimed as students move through the 2020-2021 school year. NUSD is currently working towards helping students stand up to injustices. The school is focusing on teaching the community why this behavior isn’t acceptable at San Marin.
“You can’t sit back and be passive about these things,” Sims said. “How could we as an educational institution, teaching the leaders of tomorrow, say this behavior is okay?”
Both Spinrad and Sims brought up the idea of having guided discussions with a mediator and a lesson for students on how to respectfully voice your opinion. NUSD is working towards setting up a way for those guided discussions to happen. Restorative justice juries and teachers plan to work together to educate students.
“When you see or hear negative things you can’t just sit back,” Sims said.
Clubs supporting political parties were brought up by Spinrad as a possibility under the pretense that they are not trying to change people’s opinions, merely voice theirs. This would allow students to voice their opinions without being disrespectful or breaking any rules. Although there is not a clear solution, the district is working to educate students and bring the community together.
“No matter what, you should be able to go to school without worries of being placed into any boxes because of your color, gender, or how you identify yourself,” Sims said. “The larger conversation is, discrimination should not happen at San Marin.”