Inconsistencies and frustration: Inequity among clubs at PVHS

UNITE+Club+member+Lila+Teitle+hangs+a+poster+with+resources+for+suicide+prevention

Jillian Keppy

UNITE Club member Lila Teitle hangs a poster with resources for suicide prevention

Navigating social media has become one of the greatest learning curves of the last decade. Teens and adults alike have been forced to grow accustomed to this new way of communicating – and it has not been easy.

While people from all generations have been thrown into this new age of communication, so have large companies and organizations. Schools specifically have had to make the switch from the casual newsletter sent home with students, to daily posts about activities and constant updates about district-related content. School administrators run district-wide accounts: but the option of keeping students updated via social media is also very appealing to smaller, student-led clubs and activities.

PVHS is home to countless clubs and organizations that, while primarily student-led, all have faculty advisors who oversee group activities and meetings. Any club that wants to have a social media presence associated with PVHS has historically been allowed to. However, being associated with the high school adds another level of responsibility when it comes to deciding what to share.

And it seems that decision comes with inequity for the clubs of PVHS.

PVHS athletic director D’Anne Kroemer outlined what having a social media account associated with the high school looks like in terms of responsibilities and purpose. “The purpose behind social media from an educational institution is to promote, to showcase, to share and to communicate with the world all of the great things in activities and events that are taking place,” she stated.

“We talked with students about how whatever you forward, whatever you favorite, whatever you share, that’s a representation of what you believe. It’s all about communication and intent, and part of the educational process is having those conversations with your peers, the club, or your sponsor,” Kroemer added.

There are no specific guidelines that apply to every club or activity that wants an account associated with PVHS, and it is unclear whether there is any consistency in rules of what is allowed to be posted on school-affiliated accounts. Every club has an adult or faculty advisor who oversees any social media activity, but oftentimes students who run club-related accounts are able to post without any guidance.

Senior Alyse Zuiderveen is president of PV’s chapter of Turning Point USA (TPUSA) and runs all social media accounts for the group. Zuiderveen spoke to the lack of guidance they have been given by administration. “PVHS has not given any specific guidelines as to what we can or cannot post,” she said.  “We do not have to get our posts approved prior to posting and have not been in contact with administrators prior to making posts.”

TPUSA is a self-proclaimed conservative group that works to “promote and advocate for conservative values.” TPUSA is the first club of its kind at PVHS as there has never been a clearly defined political group affiliated with the school. Zuiderveen acknowledges that some of the content posted on TPUSA social media could be perceived as controversial. “While our posts may not align with the values of every student at Pleasant Valley, we work to post respectful content. We represent one mindset and acknowledge that others may not share our beliefs,” she shared.

While TPUSA did not receive any guidelines for what they were permitted to post, the same cannot be said for other clubs, one of those being PVHS’s UNITE club. Bailey Trondson is the faculty advisor for UNITE club and outlined the group’s goals and motives. “The mission of UNITE Club is to raise awareness and understanding of social issues impacting the acceptance and unity of our students at PVHS,” she explained. “During our meetings, our members discuss various concerns and celebrations happening around our school in relation to our monthly topics. We brainstorm different ways to make the students at Pleasant Valley more unified.”

UNITE club has no political or religious affiliation but has received far more restrictions from administration when it comes to posting content than TPUSA – a group with clear political views. 

Trondson provided an overview of the guidelines UNITE club was given when in conversation with administrators. “We were advised to be cautious about what we post, as we want to share factual information that promotes our club positively, without creating controversy,” she shared. “Just like with our other resources that are shared physically around the school, the resources and postings will first be shared and approved by the administration.”

Even though nothing about UNITE club, or topics they discuss, is inherently political or controversial in nature, they are required to have every post approved by administration before sharing. The blatant inconsistencies in guidelines and restrictions for the club’s social media concern UNITE club member Lila Teitle.

“If a group is not permitted to post about controversial topics or is denied social media access due to the nature of their purpose, then all similar groups should also be denied. If Pleasant Valley’s goal is to provide the best for every student, then every student group must be treated equally,” Teitle said.

The inconsistencies in the approval and monitoring of social media accounts associated with PVHS are troubling for their many affected students. The clubs with members who have heard “no” more often than not are beginning to notice the inequity surrounding them and are left with one question: Why?