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Students Take Stand Against Broadneck 'Burn Book'

Online series of gossip videos is taken down by students.

Broadneck High School (BHS) students have successfully fought back against anonymous video postings that spread gossip about specific high schoolers.

If you’ve seen the 2004 movie Mean Girls, you’ll be familiar with a "burn book"—a collection of rumors and secrets about the lives of high school students. The kind of information that, whether true or not, could ruin someone’s reputation.

An account named Broadneck Burn Book was made on Keek.com, a video-sharing website on Sept. 18. Soon, posts appeared with pictures of students’ Facebook profile pictures. When clicked, a video played with a robotic voice from a speech-aid program used to disguise the author, disclosing rumors and gossip about the person shown in the picture.

The account's posts were taken down shortly after it was created. But the link had spread like wildfire among students, gaining more than 1,500 hits in a few hours. Students took to Twitter to complain and laugh about the existence of the burn book.

"I didn't know Broadneck was turning into another Mean Girls movie," Lauren Mayhew posted on Twitter.

"Broadneck has a Burn Book? Cmon guys, what are we in, high school?" Karl Brown posted.

BHS senior Pablo Escobosa posted a video on YouTube reviewing the whole affair. Escobosa said students banded together to get the postings taken offline by reporting them.

“That says something at least, that there were enough people upset enough to report the account,” Escobosa said. “But the consensus among the students simply seems to be just amusement—as if it’s just something stupid that people shouldn’t pay much mind, or something to laugh at.”

But as Escobosa says in his video, cyberbullying is never funny. Several schools in Anne Arundel County have anti-bullying clubs. During awareness week in 2011, students worked together for solutions on how to deal with cyberbullying.

That same year, Gov. Martin O'Malley and executives from Facebook asked students to sign an anti-bullying pledge.

School officials have also been trying to tackle solutions on the availability of social media in schools. As of right now, the school system does not have any specific policies on social media, due in part to concerns over First Amendment rights.

Schools block access to many sites on school property, including Facebook and Twitter. But the New York Times reports that savvy students have found ways to get around such bans. And such bans don't prevent students and teachers from using the sites in their own personal time.

School system spokesman Bob Mosier said social media access is something that's been on the minds of officials for a while, but a solution has proven elusive.

"We've had many discussions about social media policy, but it is a very, very complex issue," Mosier said.

Odenton Patch Editor Tim Lemke contributed to this article.

D. Frank Smith (Editor) September 21, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Lauren, I used quotes from a student I spoke with in addition to Twitter, which is a public and open platform unless a user has chosen to protect their messages.

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