Huntington Changes Student Profile Pictures: Everything You Need To Know

Every+Huntington+student%27s+profile+picture+is+now+their+most+recent+school+ID+headshot.%0A%0ACredit%3A+Erin+Ye

Every Huntington student’s profile picture is now their most recent school ID headshot. Credit: Erin Ye

Erin Ye, Editor

On Wednesday, January 6th, during their sixth and seventh period classes, Huntington High School students began noticing something strange. Their profile pictures, which appeared on Google Meetings when their cameras were turned off, started changing from their self-selected images to their school headshots. Needless to say, the response was immediate and strong.

Students were not informed about the profile picture changes before it happened, and it caught many off guard. Some speculated that inappropriate display pictures were administrators’ reasoning for making the decision. However, this wasn’t entirely the case.

“The issue of student profile pictures was discussed some time ago and the main issue was that teachers could not identify their students, as many profile pictures were not of the actual students.  This was concerning because remote instruction does present challenges in connecting with students, and this appeared to be an additional impediment.  It is true that there were issues with a number of profile pictures that weren’t school appropriate, but those were addressed on an individual basis,” said Principal Cusack on the matter.

“I agree that this could and should have been done differently,” he added.

Within the same day, a petition on change.org was created, demanding that students be given the freedom to choose their profile pictures. The petition, which appears to have been created by a Finley Middle School eighth-grader, explains that “Students should be able to express themselves through the chromebooks. Some students feel insecure about the profile pictures being shown.” It has since been signed over 600 times, with contributors leaving comments that call the administrative decision “unfair” and “violating.” Many also specified that they felt insecure about their school photos and that the change made remote learning an even less enjoyable experience.

As a result of the petition’s support, it was announced to teachers on Friday, January 8th, that the school district will be allowing students to change their profile pictures to an alternative photo of their choice, but that the picture must be submitted by Friday of this week and approved beforehand. You can find the form to submit a new profile picture here.

The district’s willingness to respond to student voice is great news and something that we should appreciate, but before you go and change your profile picture back, here are a couple of things to consider.

Your teachers loved seeing your faces.

While the student reaction on Wednesday was mixed and largely negative, the majority of teachers seemed extremely excited about being able to see some of their students’ faces for the first time. Keep in mind that if you’re a fully remote student who usually keeps their camera off, your teachers might have no idea what you look like. Teaching through a screen is difficult, especially when you’re teaching to a class of faceless profile pictures. Many teachers shared that the new profile pictures helped them feel more personally connected to their students.

It might be a good idea to keep your camera on more often in general; it helps your teachers do their job. Besides, if you keep your camera on during Google Meets, you won’t have to worry about people seeing your horrendous picture day photo.

You might not get to change your picture back to what it used to be.

If your profile picture was previously a cartoon character, a solid color, or something political, chances are it won’t be approved by school administrators. They still want to see a picture of your face when your camera is turned off. If you don’t like how you look in your school-selected picture, try changing it to one of yourself that you like better, or a school picture from a different year. This compromise is being made so that students can feel confident and teachers can feel connected.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that Huntington is one of the few districts on Long Island that does not mandate that students keep their cameras on at home. Administrators realize that students aren’t always comfortable showing their home environments and that remote learning looks different for everybody. We’ve been afforded a lot of kindness and compassion throughout the school year. It only seems fair that we reciprocate the minimum by choosing an appropriate profile picture.

 

At the end of the day, teaching and learning during a global pandemic have brought about issues that didn’t exist in the past. Before March of 2020, Google Classroom was an occasionally used learning tool and Google Meets in a school setting was mostly unheard of. Today, these two platforms have essentially become our online campus. It’s important that we, as students, learn to compromise with the adults who are trying to give us the best learning experience possible while also communicating our point of view when something isn’t working for us. The recent profile picture changes and the subsequent response are a great example of adapting to the current circumstances.

“I was very impressed with the way the student body handled the issue.  There was a situation that upset a number of students, who presented the matter to me in an appropriate and productive way, and we were able to respond with a solution that would work for most people,” said Principal Cusack. “To me, that’s the way things should work.”