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Freshman Kyle Timmons, 14, of Brentwood, stands next to his campaign sign for freshman treasurer at Heritage High School in Brentwood, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug, 8, 2012. Timmons was one of the students who was banned from campaigning through social media. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Staff)

BRENTWOOD -- Although technology is king on campuses these days, student government campaigns at Heritage High are strictly old-school.

Leading up to this week's election of freshman class officers, candidates put up all the usual posters and handed out fliers around the Brentwood campus, but one communications tool was missing: social media.

No Twitter.

No Facebook.

No Instagram.

Activities Director Jessica Banchieri banned teens from high-tech networking during races several years ago because of how some behaved online, making Heritage the only high school in the district with such a policy.

"Every time students have used Facebook for campaigning, someone has said something mean about somebody else," she said, adding that more often than not it wasn't the candidates themselves lobbing insults but their friends and even friends of friends.

Banchieri readily acknowledges the irony of her rules, noting that the high school embraces technology, and the three-day election itself was conducted online.

Nor does she make any bones about the fact that it would have been impossible to monitor what each of the 16 freshmen running for office and his or her friends were posting to the Web, even if she were one of their Facebook friends, a practice Banchieri avoids.

She relies on the honor system instead, saying kids police themselves.


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Despite the dominant role that social media plays in the lives of so many adolescents, Banchieri said no students have complained to her about the rules.

"I think when I explain why, they understand it. If somebody posts something negative about another candidate on someone's page, it opens this big door for others to comment negatively," she said.

In addition to the piling-on effect, the mudslinging reflects poorly on the person who allows such remarks to appear on his or her Web page, Banchieri tells students.

Kyle Timmons, 13, lost his bid for treasurer, but thinks the results had more to do with students' inability to find the website where they could cast their votes than on not being able to promote himself on Facebook.

And although the social media blackout initially disappointed Dylan Hussein, he still won the race for class president.

"I'm not going to lie -- I use Instagram and Facebook a lot," said the 14-year-old, who wasn't planning on doing shoe leather politicking. "It was kind of hard for me to go out and talk to the students I didn't know because I'm used to texting someone, posting a picture."

But Dylan overcame his discomfort to get out the vote, and now agrees with Banchieri that eliminating social media from campaigns lays the foundation for a happier experience throughout high school.

"You just want students to be good friends. You don't want to make it the worst four years of your life by trash-talking, bullying," he said.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.

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