The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

What national news cannot tell you about WHS: Community still coping post-controversy

Friday, Oct. 20 was meant to be celebratory. During the annual SGA student-teacher volleyball game, students planned to sit eagerly in their respective homerooms, waiting to witness this year’s showdown between the winning student team and some of WHS’ most beloved teachers. 

While most did tune in to the livestream, a number of classrooms were left partially vacant. Instead of cheering on their peers, many sophomore girls were huddled into the counseling office, experiencing the unfolding of a situation that left some girls victims to fellow student’s pornographic use of Artificial Intelligence. 

Since then, media coverage of WHS has intensified as a WHS sophomore came forward with personal testimony on the situation. She worked with major news platforms such as the Wall Street Journal, CNN and Fox News, all while drawing the attention of a plethora of other news outlets seeking to cover the controversy. 

According to the public statement made by Principal Mary Asfendis on Oct. 20, the school opened an investigation and referred concerned families to the Westfield Police Department. Additionally, counselors facilitated grade level discussions for all sophomores during their gym classes, separated by gender. 

However, with little commentary from administration since and swirling rumors regarding those who may be involved, students and teachers alike have been left to sift through feelings and find the truth in the unsettling aftermath of the incident. 

So, after a frenzy of external media attention, Hi’s Eye felt it necessary to gauge the true feelings of people inside the walls of WHS. 

Feelings about the incident itself:

“These photographs are disgusting. They make me uncomfortable. I feel unsafe because [AI is] unpredictable and always accessible.” – Sophomore Natalie Ardente

“[Pornographic AI use] is very disturbing and degenerate. Anybody who is found using that kind of thing, especially for teenage girls, should be treated the same as child pornography, cause it is.” – Sophomore George Alex Danhower

Feelings about the school climate: 

“Coming into a new school and having such a tragic thing happen just put everyone in an uncomfortable situation and the fact that everyone was trying to get adjusted to high school when this happened just made it harder to adjust.” – Freshman Peyton Reed

“Knowing that someone in our ‘safe’ school did something like [the student responsible] did makes me uncomfortable.” – Junior Emma Lederman

“Every day differs. Some days hearsay about everything that happened feels overpowering and other days it’s not even mentioned. I constantly feel tense in school nowadays and uncomfortable being amongst boys in my classes who were rumored to be involved.” – Sophomore Stella Pugliese

Feelings about the school’s response: 

“Although there is still an ongoing investigation, and I understand that they can’t just dish out punishments to people without necessary evidence, I think the school’s response has been pretty bad. It has been acknowledged that someone was doing these things, and there have been names thrown around, and for [them] to just be walking the hallways with other people, it is difficult for the people who have been the victims of his actions.” – Senior Benedict Nematadzira

“The counselors have been very on top of maintaining the general mental well-being of the girls in the sophomore class from Friday onwards. There has been major controversy sparked from the lack of punishment for the student who orchestrated this all, but I would hope to believe that administrators are working behind the scenes making sure justice is being served.” – Sophomore Stella Pugliese

“I think it is hard for [teachers, students, parents] to accurately judge how the administration is handling it. A lot of people in the community do not have all of the facts and the full context of what happened, what could have been done, etc. We have to understand that there are legal barriers for what administration can say or do and student privacy at play.” – Social Studies Teacher Brett Curtis

Feelings about the sophomore grade level meetings conducted one week after the incident: 

“Doing a grade meeting for only the sophomores did absolutely no good because any one in any grade could be doing this. The school should have done more.” – Junior Emma Lederman

“I think the meetings were a good place to start and allowed people to voice their thoughts and some of the issues that they personally were going through or what their friends were going through. I think it’s very clear that students are looking for more than just that first meeting.” –  Physical Education Teacher Ashley Nitto

Feelings about the media response:

 “It’s good that this issue is getting publicity because it’s definitely affecting everyone. However, I feel that all the reporters outside of the school can be a little much given that they’re distracting from our school environment.” – Junior Katie Makely

“The news coverage is very appropriate given the scale and magnitude of the incident.” – Sophomore George Alex Danhower

View Comments (1)

Comments (1)

All Hi's Eye Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • D

    Denise EdwardsNov 27, 2023 at 6:23 pm

    To teacher Brett Curtis – Student safety should always trump privacy. While there may be legal constraints, school administrators are using privacy to sweep this issue under the rug. Every female in that school should be able to be in class without having to deal with the abusers. At a minimum, anyone involved with the production and/distribution of the pictures should be banned from all school extracurricular activities, programs, events, dances, sports for the remainder of high school. I also encourage their victims to write letters detailing the abuse to any colleges these boys get accepted to as seniors. I’m sure they won’t potential sex offenders on campus.