Written by: Lucy Oyer
On Apr. 21, in response to the Gunn Confessions Facebook page, Principal Katya Villalobos sent an email to parents and students alerting them about the page as well as sharing a new LibGuide developed by Librarian Meg Omainsky about cyber-bullying. Gunn Confessions received hundreds of “likes” from students and alumni before it was taken down. The page offered a link to a form through which one could submit an anonymous confession about anything or anyone. Although the page’s administrators initially claimed they would not post any negative confessions about specific individuals, a number of posts attacking a Gunn staff member drew sharp criticism. Gunn’s administration was made aware of the situation, but since the Gunn Confessions administrators had not technically violated any school rules, the school’s response was limited to requesting that the students take it down.
Unlike most features on Facebook, the Gunn Confessions page allowed students to write anything they wanted with complete anonymity. Initially, posts were generally light-hearted but, according to Villalobos, as the page’s popularity grew, posts became much more sensational and offensive. Within a week of Villalobos being informed, the page was removed from Facebook. “There is a certain power that people get from a sense of anonymity and they feel they can write things to an individual that they would never say to their face,” Villalobos said. “Even though I didn’t have a real jurisdiction over Gunn Confessions, I was very disappointed because it didn’t match what I know our students to be.”
Many students agreed that taking the page down was the right move. “I didn’t really care about it personally because I wasn’t on it but a lot of people were hurt by the posts and it caused unnecessary drama,” junior Avery Sredanovich said. “Some of the posts were funny but some went too far.”
Some students, however, felt the school administration’s response was too strong. Junior Thomas Rasmussen, who himself used the page a couple of times, agreed that the posts about the specific staff member were out of line but did not think that the entire page should have been taken down. “I still think that if the admin had simply said the specific quotes had to be taken down or that they need to express a disclaimer that the page was not affiliated with Gunn, as opposed to asking that the page be taken down, that would have been more appropriate,” Rasmussen said. “Gunn can’t control what kids say to each other outside of school so it doesn’t make sense for them to control what we say on Facebook outside of school.”
Despite this, many students enjoyed Gunn Confessions, as evidenced by the hundreds of “likes” some posts received at the peak of the page’s popularity. Supporters believe the page was not only protected by the First Amendment right to free speech, but it was also a useful outlet for students who wanted to have fun. “I thought it provided a forum for students to say things that they were thinking online in a way that didn’t threaten anyone personally,” Rasmussen said. “I felt like it was completely ridiculous that people were angry over the concept of the page, when most of the things on the page were jokes or things that people found funny, or maybe a relatable confession.”