Coulee Region students are posting Facebook “confessions” that would make even a seasoned priest blush. But there’s little districts can do to stop them.
Pages popped up across the region this week that allow users to make anonymous posts about life as a student. Much to the chagrin of administrators, most of the posts are lurid descriptions of sexual encounters, drug and alcohol use and gossip about teachers.
The West Salem High School principal contacted parents this week about a confessions page where students were leaving lewd posts.
A similar page was created at about midnight Thursday for Onalaska High School.
And a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student confessions page drew the ire of its chancellor the same day.
The pages are proof that, try as they might, educators often have little control over how students behave on the Internet.
“It’s too bad that we’re dragged into this now,” Onalaska Superintendent Fran Finco said.
West Salem’s page was created last week but was taken down after school officials made an announcement over the loudspeakers Thursday afternoon.
“We just asked them to be cautious, like we do with any type of social media,” Principal Mark Carlson said. “And to think before they get involved with something like that.”
He welcomed teachers to discuss the pages with students and asked parents to remind their kids of the risks of using social media.
While the first posts to confessions pages are anonymous, “liking” a post or commenting on an original post will disclose that user’s identity.
“Some have questioned if there will be disciplinary action taken towards students who contribute to this webpage,” Carlson wrote in his letter to parents. “We are taking a wait and see attitude at this point until we gain more information. That being said, we do highly discourage any of our students from interacting on this webpage.”
Finco said it’s especially disappointing to see his students using the pages because students in the Onalaska district begin learning about safe and appropriate Internet behavior in elementary school.
Confessions pages appear to have first gained popularity with Wisconsin and Minnesota college students.
UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow sent an email to students and staff Thursday asking the anonymous creator of a UW-L confessions page to pull a photo showing a woman passed out face down on a floor.
The email came just days after UW-L student Neala Frye died from hypothermia and intoxication after leaving an Onalaska bar.
Facebook said it killed the page after receiving complaints. But a new one was created within a few hours.
It had more than 1,600 “likes” by Friday night.