Students stand up, rally against cyberbullying
Students at a Vermont high school are winning praise. They are fighting back against online bullying. A counterattack was organized.
They asked the creators of the After School app to take their school's message board down. Then they launched a "Positive Post-it" campaign. Small notes offering praise and encouragement to fellow students were stuck to bulletin boards and windows around the school.
They also asked the tech giant Apple to remove After School from its App Store. An Apple spokesman said the company had agreed. The app was removed.
The app's intended use was to post anonymous messages about local goings-on. Instead, comments on Rutland High School's app were "negative, obscene," said Principal Bill Olsen.
Senior Eric Gokee was one of five students who spoke during morning announcements. He introduced himself by saying, "Some of you may know me as the biggest Jew at Rutland High School." He added in an interview a few days later he was voted as such in a survey on the app.
"I never downloaded the app. But I knew what was going on just from my friends. Everyone was talking about it," Gokee said.
Sophomore Molly Engels is president of a student group, Cyber You. It is devoted to responsible Internet use, "It was a big wakeup call to see so many people affected by it in a negative way," she said.
The Rutland students' anti-bullying efforts drew praise from Gov. Peter Shumlin.
John Halligan is an anti-bullying activist. He said he had spoken to Rutland students two years ago.
"I'm really proud of these kids," he said. He added that they had gotten the message to "stand up for one another and push back against the bullying behavior."