Blake, 27, is in his first year as an administrator. He thinks his success at the school in Upper Marlboro could depend on how well he can tap into Twitter, this school’s most active network. Although school leaders across the country still wrestle with how — or whether — they should regulate Internet use, Blake saw an opportunity to mentor, monitor and mediate.
But there is a darker side to the social-network patter.
In a school where fights often break out weekly, guidance counselors say at least 60 percent of Wise’s fights start with cutting comments of 140 characters or less.
Twitter is where the legend of the school’s most notorious fashion faux pas — a girl wearing Michael Jordan shoes atop two-inch heels — was born. A student’s pregnancy scare became hallway prattle after she wondered about why she had missed her period.
Principals in Prince George’s County and other districts with large black populations noticed the Twitter trail of innuendo and trouble.
In November, a Pew Research Center study confirmed their suspicions: Black teenagers were three times as likely to actively use Twitter as white or Latino teenagers, researchers said, and twice as likely to have an online profile that all the world could see. Users with public profiles were more likely to start fights, end friendships or have other “negative experiences.”
Blake tries to make sure they have positive ones.
“Elmolover says: ‘You need to sleep and stop drinking coffee,’ ’’ Blake says, reading a Twitter message meant for him. He shrugs off the snark, then asks the students to tweet their grade-point averages. A 4.0 average gets applause. So does a 3.2.
Then Blake frowns.
“What type of nasty name is this? And a 2.5? You need to change your Twitter name,” he says, referring to a moniker that is only a couple of strategically omitted letters short of obscene. “That’s why your GPA is so low!”
Welcome to Wise High School’s Twitter feed.
Wise, home of the Pumas, has more than 2,600 students. Blake has persuaded about 1,400 to follow him at @pumasden. His followers include @FollowMeJesus, @WhoaWitWit and @mrsuccessful16. Some of their Twitter icons smile; others growl.
By 9:15 a.m. each weekday, @pumasden’s timeline spews about 20 tweets a minute in a cycle that doesn’t slow until 1 a.m. Sometimes, they “lls” — an acronym for laughing like [expletive].
Over the next 10 minutes one day at 9:15 a.m., the tweets read like this (edited for content):
“My Spanish teacher talkin’ bout how she wants a new husband for Christmas! Lls”
“Applying for Penn State, North Carolina A&T, and University of North Carolina”