Students stand up, rally against cyberbullying (Thinkstock)
Students stand up, rally against cyberbullying
Lexile

Students at a Vermont high school are winning praise for their efforts to fight back against online bullying. After a burst of negative posts on an anonymous school news app, students at Rutland High School organized a counterattack.

They petitioned 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 petitioned 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 is to help students to form groups tied to a specific school and 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.

After School co-founder Cory Levy defended the app. He called it a "blank sheet of paper" that leaves students to decide what to write on it.

"We've only just gotten to know these students," Levy wrote in an email. "Their parents have had years to shape their morals and build good decision making skills."

John Halligan has been an anti-bullying activist since his son, Ryan, committed suicide in 2003. That was following online bullying by fellow middle school students. 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."

Critical thinking challenge: What reasoning did the app's co-founder use to avoid accepting responsibility for the abusive way his app was used?

Assigned 271 times


COMMENTS (260)
  • bryanh719
    12/16/2014 - 11:00 a.m.

    I'm proud to see someone to take a chance to fight cyber bully. Many people would also agreed with me that bullying is bad and we should fight off bullying. Bullying have been a problem and i think that everyone should stand up for one another and end bullying.

  • lyndas705
    12/16/2014 - 12:00 p.m.

    This article was great it shows how cyber bullying affects people.Also it affects schools because there students are being bullied and some are being bullies. And i'm sorry for your loss.

  • ma2000dragonball
    12/16/2014 - 12:59 p.m.

    If you downloaded the app and said inappropriate stuff on the app, then you should take responsibility, considering the fact that you took the time to even download it, then you should be a young adult and be as responsible for your actions as possible

  • TBJOHN02
    12/16/2014 - 01:17 p.m.

    The students at Vermont High School did the right thing they saw obscene or negative comments so they started a petition to take the app down.

  • BrynnDani
    12/16/2014 - 01:58 p.m.

    I am truly amazed by the behavior of the students that I have just read about. I was amazed by negative and positive actions. It horrified me to read that students were turning an app that is suppose to keep students up to date on school activities into a blog site meant to bash other students. I was proud to hear that other students, instead of joining in, rallied up to remove the app and make sure that this did not happen to anyone else.

  • AlexJGreen0
    12/16/2014 - 02:31 p.m.

    People has have always bullied and they might not even know it, but a funny little joke they play on someone with their friends could have a really big impact on the victim no matter how innocent the joke may seem. So I'm glad to see a school finally trying to help their students instead of just putting up anti-bullying posters.

  • JaydonJCamo
    12/16/2014 - 02:32 p.m.

    I think bullying in general is horrible not just cyber-bullying, but with technology controlling our lives this would hit a big percentage of the issue so bravo.

  • IsabelSBlue0
    12/16/2014 - 02:33 p.m.

    I think that this is great because bullying is one of the most terrible things that is in our schools and you would think school would be somewhere safe but it isn't because of bullying.

  • VictoriaSCoral
    12/16/2014 - 02:34 p.m.

    I am with these students. Cyberbullying needs to stop now and never come back. What people are not realizing is that they are actually making someone want to make them commit suicide. Please stop!

  • RyanSOrange
    12/16/2014 - 02:35 p.m.

    Good thing the took down that app, cause it could turn out to be a bloodbath of negative and brutal comments and that can turn into fights and other bad things. I'm proud for Vermont High School, like I said it can turn out to be really bad and who wants a whole lot of bad things going on in a school?

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