During September, the STA administration requested that students remove STA trademarks from social media such as Twitter and Facebook because it violates a school policy. During the same time, the administration was also concerned about how some social media content was representing STA.
After two incidents this year involving what the administration calls a student “misuse” of social media, principal of academic affairs Barbara McCormick said that STA students were misunderstanding their social media rights.
McCormick said students have misused trademarks of STA through Facebook groups and Twitter accounts. One example of this is the Twitter account named “stagirlproblems.” The account was created by an anonymous STA student to express the “problems” that STA girls face. According to McCormick, the school’s logos, names, “Stars,” “STA” and “St. Teresa’s Academy” all qualify as trademarks of the school.
The Dart made several attempts to identify who created the “stagirlproblems” account, but none of the students interviewed admitted to creating the account. The administration asked over the intercom for the student to delete the account because it used a trademark of STA–the school logo–as its profile picture.
The administration became aware of the account several weeks ago and asked for it to be removed because it was not representing STA in a positive way, according to McCormick.
“[Administration] was concerned of the purpose [of the account] and the fact that it was using a trademark of STA,” McCormick said. “People looking for St. Teresa’s Academy on the Internet are going to pull that up in a search, and that’s the reputation we are presenting to the public.”
Social media lawyer and graduate of UCLA Law School Michelle Sherman said in an interview with the Dart that this is legal in private schools.
“It is definitely legal for private schools to ask that things through social media that do not represent the school in a positive light be removed,” Sherman said.
Some STA students who are becoming aware of this are shocked, and angry that the administration has this power. Junior Adelle Smith, who tweeted at “stagirlproblems” before the account was removed, does not think administration should have this right.
“Administration shouldn’t be allowed to get involved [with what students do on Twitter and Facebook],” Smith said. “What we do on Twitter and Facebook isn’t a direct representation of the school and the administration shouldn’t get involved with it.”
However, Sherman believes that the school has a right to be involved.
“They don’t want their logo on a Facebook or Twitter account because it reflects upon the school and it is how that school is viewed,” Sherman said. “The school is entitled to say no.”
According to McCormick, STA administration is not particularly searching for these violations; they are aware of them because they are users of social media themselves. This is how administration became aware of “stagirlproblems.”
“I personally use [social networking sites], and I have a Twitter,” McCormick said. “It’s not that [administration] is looking for it, but it comes to our attention when we are out there using it ourselves.”
Smith does not believe that administration should be allowed to do this.
“If the administration is on Twitter looking at who we’re following and what we’re saying, I don’t think that’s okay,” Smith said.
According to the STA Acceptable Use Policy (a document outlining student digital rights and responsibilities) communications on the Internet reflect on STA and must not damage the school’s reputation.
“[Administration] is trying to assure that the organization’s public image is not tarnished by things published on the internet,” McCormick said. “You can’t use trademarks of STA without prior approval because those things belong to STA.”
A similar instance of this “misuse,” according to the administration, is the Facebook groups that STA class officers create for each grade level. These groups are created so that students can make announcements, ask homework questions and communicate with their class members. Most of these groups, including the senior class of 2012, used multiple STA trademarks according to McCormick.
“I have to be a member [of these Facebook groups] if they are using a trademark of STA,” McCormick said.
These groups used the STA logo as their profile picture, as well as the name “STA” in the title. According to McCormick, administration communicated with class officers from each grade to clarify that using these trademarks is not allowed unless administration is a member of the group. Soon after, the trademarks were removed from the groups.
McCormick believes that these misunderstandings are a recent problem because social media is becoming more popular within the STA community.
“It’s a recent problem because I think students are getting more actively involved in social media for other purposes,” McCormick said.