Careful: Hot Tea Burns
November 6, 2020
On the 29th of September during 7th and 8th period, I was dragged out of class and told to go into the auditorium for yet another year level assembly. Nobody fully knew what the assembly was going to be about. A few had their suspicions myself included. A few hours before, during lunch, my friend showed me something on Instagram, so I had a small idea of what was about to take place. As soon as the projector lit up it was obvious: ISL Tea.
A couple of days before this assembly, an Instagram account was created with only a link to a website. On this website, people were able to post anonymous messages which the creator of the account then posted. A few of these comments focused on particular members of the school community including teachers and students. Even though the account was only active for about 24 hours, it had an immense impact on the school. By this point, many students had seen the hurtful messages.
On this Instagram page a few accusations were made. One person wrote: “[I] was sexually assaulted by another student and they suggested I should leave <3”. There were also accusations involving staff and students. One of these comments was: “A few years back when applying for unis I needed a recommendation and I asked ….. for one and they told me only with a favour. I sucked them off and never got the recommendation in the end but was too embarrassed to say”. The school said that it had found no evidence of this being true. Full protocol was employed and none of the accusations made were taken lightly.
Whether these comments and accusations were true is still unclear to everyone. According to Mr Foley, the school has learned a lot about the past couple of experiences with pages like this. He mentioned that “they always start off being harmless at the beginning, but then they turn into something bigger”. This can explain why the school took action against the page so quickly. This quick response, however, is a controversial topic as many students disagree with the approach taken.
The way the school decided to handle the situation was by having an assembly with each year group in high school and sending out an email to parents as well as sending one to the student body.
Of course, this doesn’t happen everyday, which fuels the discussion of whether this was the appropriate response to the situation or not. Most students agreed with the actions taken by the school saying that they were “a bit dramatic but I think it was an important issue and the Instagram page definitely said some out of proportion and harmful things.” Many students share the opinion that the actions taken by the school were slightly out of proportion. Another student in Year 12 mentioned that “I think the school can’t directly control anything like that”. On the other hand, a student in Year 13 stated that “The school handled it in the worst way possible”. This is only one out of many opinions, however, it still suggests that some students believe that the response wasn’t effective or useful.
Even though the school will not take any further action against the actual students involved (unless they decide to pass it to the authorities), according to Mr Foley they are considering having more workshops/programs involved with improving digital citizenship. In 2003, an anonymous gossip blog was created by ISL students. This blog posted multiple anonymous messages, usually targeting specific individuals but not explicitly saying their name. This led to multiple ISL students being attacked, initiating a response from the school. As this was one of the first events concerning digital citizenship, after this blog the school recognized the issue of digital citizenship and decided to take more action against this. Whenever an event similar to this blog, or ISL Tea, occurs the school addresses the issue by having assemblies and sending emails, similar to the response which was taken now.
This fight against aspects of digital citizenship has become more and more significant over the years and situations like these are just reminders of its importance. Even though not all students may agree with the way the school handled this issue, there are a few that believe that these are necessary precautions that must be taken in order to have an actual impact. Even though events like these may not occur on a day to day basis, seemingly “harmless” things like an Instagram page could lead to serious consequences, reminding us that this is not something that should be taken lightly.