Anonymity – But Only to an Extent

Nathan Dahm

Anonymity can be very useful in guiding students in need to seek help and support if they are in distress, but what if this promised secrecy was violated?

Talk About It is a service in which students are asked to report problems that they witness or encounter, and aims to help reduce the seemingly pervasive problem of persecution that bullying entails. The program is believed to be the next great solution; however, there is a catch.

The program takes pride in the claim that students have the choice to choose whether or not they can submit anonymously, or by name, comments regarding bullying or harmful activity that they witness. This anonymity is true—but only to an extent.

Comments that students submit anonymously can in fact be traced to those who submitted it.

If administration interprets the tips revealed on talk about it as being dangerous or harmful to students, administration can request SchoolMessenger—the company who runs Talk About It—to trace the submission to the student number login that submitted the comment.

True, sometimes it is necessary to take away a student’s right to stay anonymous, if there is something that could pose a threat to Liberty students, such as a bomb or shooting threat. But the line is blurry between what constitutes a genuine threat to student safety and what doesn’t.

More seriously, students have been misled into believing that their submissions will stay anonymous. If there is even the slightest possibility that the student’s tip will not be anonymous, they should be made aware in a clear, straightforward manner. The fact that Talk About it has no guarantee of anonymity should not be hidden away in the small print, only revealed to students after further questioning and investigation of administration.

In addition, if tips on Talk About It are used as reasonable suspicion for searches and seizures without violating the Fourth Amendment, there’s potential for students to submit false submissions because they think it is funny. These contributions could then be used to investigate students who have done nothing wrong, hurting the student and wasting administration’s time.

Talk About It does have great potential to aid students in need of help—it is a place where students can feel safe and comfortable to ask for and receive help. However, both students and administration need to play a role in making Talk About It a success. Administration needs to make it clear to students that their anonymity is guaranteed, while students need to take Talk About It seriously and make submissions that won’t hurt others or waste time for their own amusement. Only then can Talk About It fill the role it’s made to fill