SOMERS, N.Y. – The Somers school community was recoiling in horror Thursday over revelations that innocent students have been made the victims of “cruel and disparaging comments” on Instagram.
“Many of the posts on the account are sexist, racist, and homophobic in nature. The language used is vicious, slanderous, and downright disgusting,” said Somers High School Principal Mark E. Bayer in an emotional letter to parents on May 28.
“I cannot begin to express how incredibly disappointed I am that this has happened here in Somers. Based on everything our students have shown they can be, I WANT to believe that they are better than this. I HAVE to believe that we are better than this,” he wrote.
The troubling situation came to light after distressed parents notified the school district and then jumped on social media to decry what they called “harassment” and a “hate crime.”
Bayer acknowledged that social media “makes up a significant part of our students’ communication with those around them.”
Nevertheless, he was shocked and shaken up by the seeming callousness of the act.
“What I cannot understand - what I refuse to understand - is how anyone could choose to create an anonymous account and cowardly post something, knowing full well it will hurt another person. That is the very definition of cruelty and I have to hope that there are enough people out there who will stand up to this,” he wrote.
Both students and parents reached out to the district, either through email or its Anonymous Alerts system, he said.
Based on the intensity of the outrage, he said, “it is clear that the vast majority of people in our community denounce this behavior and remain vigilant in making sure that it gets reported to school officials and law enforcement so that it can be stopped.”
Bayer said he was heartened by the number of students responding to the vile posts who “defended one another and stood up to this form of bullying and harassment.”
This shows, he added, that “when faced with negative behaviors such as this, the overwhelming majority of our students do the right thing.”
“One of the most basic human needs is to feel safe. As a district and as a school, we work hard every day to make sure that every single student who walks through our front doors feels safe and knows that they are valued and cared for,” Bayer said.
The school district has reported the two accounts directly to Instagram and to law enforcement officials. An investigation has been launched.
It is asking anyone with any information about who the author of the accounts is to “reach out.”
All reports will be kept confidential, Bayer promised.
“Whether your child is a participant, a victim, an innocent bystander, or not even aware the accounts exist, this is an opportunity to have an important conversation about the power of our words and their impact on those around us,” he said.
Calling the situation a “teachable moment for our children,” Bayer said he hoped that “if our students can put themselves in the shoes of a classmate, then they will realize that words can hurt and that their actions can have devastating consequences.”