Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Pascack Valley H.S. on Twitter after Slurs

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Pascack Valley H.S. on Twitter after Slurs

Article excerpt

HILLSDALE -- In the days after officials said that five Pascack Valley High School students had been disciplined for "racially charged" language or behavior, students have posed questions and aired concerns in a pair of public settings, including a meeting on Tuesday.

But they also have kept the conversation going in a 21st-century manner, taking to Twitter on their smartphones to speak out against alleged instances of white supremacist behavior, marking their posts with the hashtag #PeaceInPV.

The hashtag first appeared in a letter that a school club, the Human Rights league, posted to the school newspaper's website last week, alleging that at least a few students had identified themselves as white supremacists and had directed racially charged slurs at classmates.

The club said the hashtag was intended to unite the school community.

Tweets condemning the incidents began to appear almost immediately, and remain popular among students more than a week later, eliciting responses that range from shocked disgust to calls for action. Some students thanked the school club that posted the letter while others posted their disbelief that "racism," "intolerance" and "hatred" were present in their school.

"I think the first day when everything happened the students felt there was a disconnect with the administration," said Camille Georgallas, a senior. "I think by us using Twitter and the hashtag it really was able to make a big impact for us. Instead of one person saying something, Twitter was able to reach everyone in the school."

Using Twitter to shape a public conversation is becoming increasingly common, said Aram Sinnreich, a media professor at Rutgers University. Social media -- and Twitter in particular -- is becoming a "marketplace of ideas" where political action is generated, Sinnreich said.

"Twitter is as close as we get to a digital public sphere," he said. "It's a platform that Americans and those around the world use to share their political and social vantage points. …

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