Instagram account sparks dialogue in SMUHSD community


Allison Szetu

The SMUHSD Awareness Instagram account allows students to anonymously share their experiences of injustice with the community.

Lexi Goldstein, Editor-In-Chief

On June 28, an Instagram account with the username @smuhsd.awareness came to fruition with a personal statement regarding the page’s mission to enlighten the community about issues such as racism, homophobia, sexual harassment and general discriminations through anonymous submissions from students in the San Mateo Union High School District (SMUHSD). The account is run by nine anonymous student representatives of six schools in SMUHSD; all declined to be interviewed for this story due to their preference to remain anonymous. As of Sept. 19, the account had 73 posts – mostly consisting of anonymous statements – and 1,521 followers. 


“The account started following me and I started following it back because it was school and community related,” sophomore Camille Miranda said. 


The account reiterated their purpose in a post on Aug. 8, in addition to sharing a list of resources for students in need, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, text lifelines and online support forums. 


“Trauma can affect us all in all aspects of life and SMUHSD Awareness is not only here to share these experiences and educate the students, teachers, parents and members of our district, but to support you in getting your story out there,” read an excerpt from the post.

The majority of the posts are formatted with a vivid cover page detailing a trigger warning for the topic addressed in the submission on the following page. All posts are completely unedited  from the anonymous submission form, linked in the account’s bio, to avoid any inauthenticity. While the promise of anonymity offers students an opportunity to share stories they otherwise might not be comfortable sharing, it can pose a threat to the validity of the posts, as there is no ability to fact check submissions.


“A lot of people would be self conscious if others knew what had happened to them, it is a personal struggle,” junior Chrissy Carroll said. “It keeps something from being gossip or drama and is more authentic.”


According to teacher Annie Miller who is in contact with the account moderators, some people have taken advantage of the account’s anonymous submissions.


Unfortunately, bad actors have posted things to purposefully bully and harass students. This is unacceptable. The focus needs to be on positive intent,” Miller said. 


As the account gained traction, opportunity for disagreement increased. In a post from July 23, a student expressed disappointment in the lack of school and district intervention following a vandalism incident last school year at Burlingame; resulting in a long thread of comments differing on the quality of the school’s response. The original post stated that there was no news coverage of the graffiti, yet students in the comments section pointed out that it was covered by the Daily Journal, included in a CNN piece in nationwide antisemitism and led to stronger school unity through encouraged counseling and an assembly. SMUHSD awareness later updated the comment on the post to reflect this information, clarifying that the post was simply one student’s opinion. . Additionally, in a video posted Aug. 30, a man was shown chanting “white lives matter” and “libtard” on Burlingame Avenue, multiple Instagram users expressed their agreement with the man’s preaching or incomprehension of how his remarks would be offensive. 


Despite occasional conflicts in the comment section, the account has already started achieving some of their goals. A teacher from Mills High School reached out to have a conversation with the account moderators and shared her knowledge of the account’s outreach in the community, specifically teachers and district faculty. With an average of 306 likes per post, the account has come to the attention of many.


“A lot of people, especially in Burlingame, think racism doesn’t exist here, homophobia doesn’t exist here. The posts have opened my eyes, like maybe these things do exist here. Before these stories came out people just thought San Mateo County was this perfect place, but it really isn’t,” Carroll said. “The account is flipping our views on other people, specifically here, which is harsh but needed.”


With near daily posts and a rise in following, the account shows no signs of slowing down and continues to spread awareness in the community.