by Grace Lu, Belinda Yan News Reporters & Lily Zarr News Editor
graphic by Emily Cheng
On Nov. 2, Newton Public Schools added Discord to the blocked list on middle and high school students’ district-administered Chromebooks.
South’s Instructional Technology (IT) Specialist Brian Hammel said that he received an email on Oct. 19 from Steven Rattendi, Newton’s Director of Information Technology and Library Services, who said that middle and high school administrators were searching for a way to stop students from using Discord at school, as it was a distraction and was being used for bullying. Hammel said they concluded that banning Discord was the most effective way to combat these issues.
Discord, a widely used online communication platform, allows users to create servers and chat channels. With the onset of the pandemic and schools moving online, Discord has become a major communication tool among students.
Freshman Lulu Jin, who has created a few school servers, said that she uses Discord every day to talk to her friends, connect with clubs and check for school updates.
Hammel said he acknowledges that banning Discord was not a perfect solution.
“It is unfortunate that those who use Discord for productive uses will no longer be able to use the site,” he said. “However … [banning] it is the only tool the IT department has at this time.”
Freshman Benjamin Nusinzon said that the ban made an instantaneous change in the way students use technology, as students now use their phones to access Discord.
“Unlike last year, now I have seen less people on their computers and more people on their phones,” he said.
Access to Discord is prevented outside of school grounds as well, meaning that students are unable to use the platform on their school-owned Chromebooks at home. Clara Howard* said that the ban causes difficulty for those who only have access to school devices.
“I know some of my friends use Chromebook[s] mostly for communicating with us because they don’t have a computer at home, so it’s a bit sad,” she said.
The ban has also greatly affected clubs, freshman and science team member Shelley Wei said.
“The science team used to use Discord a lot, but now, it can’t be affiliated with Discord officially. So we’re searching for a new platform to communicate,” she said.
History team co-captain and junior William Locke said the team also uses Discord and now struggles to keep in touch during school hours.
“With important updates about tournaments, it’s much more difficult to communicate with everyone immediately because of the ban,” he said.
Beyond just Discord, history team co-captain and junior Jessica Weinfeld said that many students are upset with the ban and don’t feel considered in South’s decisions.
“Kids are pretty annoyed and, in some cases, angry,” she said. “A lot of them are increasingly fed-up because the school is doing a lot of stuff that they don’t consider right, and they don’t have a voice in what happens.”
To find a solution to the ban, students have been trying out other communication platforms. Jin said she has downloaded the Discord app, and that other students will use similar means of getting around the ban.
“Students use Discord for school purposes, not just to chat,” she said. “Students will find other ways to talk to their friends.”
*Name changed to protect interviewee’s privacy.