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

Students at a Vermont high school are winning praise for their efforts to fight back against online bullying. After a burst of negative posts last week 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, and then launched a "Positive Post-it" campaign, in which 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 and removed the app.

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 said he was labeled on the app as "the biggest Jew at Rutland High School." He was one of five students who spoke during morning announcements, introducing 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, president of a student group, Cyber You, which is devoted to responsible Internet use, said, "It was a big wakeup call to see so many people affected by it in a negative way."

The Rutland students' anti-bullying efforts, first reported during the weekend by the Rutland Herald, drew praise from Gov. Peter Shumlin.

"The students' campaign makes me realize that people of all ages can do the right thing and doing so can send a powerful message," the governor said in a statement.

After School co-founder Cory Levy defended the app, calling 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, who has been an anti-bullying activist since his son, Ryan, committed suicide in 2003 following intense online bullying by fellow middle school students in Essex, said he had spoken to Rutland students two years ago.

"I'm really proud of these kids," he said, adding 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?

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What reasoning did the app's co-founder use to avoid accepting responsibility for the abusive way his app was used?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • AdenCPink
    12/16/2014 - 11:59 a.m.

    Y'know, wouldn't it have been easier to talk to the creator of the app and have him program something that would allow teachers to view the app? Or better yet, teachers could enforce a rule saying to use usernames that they give the students. Or they could just remove the app from their phone. That could work too. I'm not trying to be negative, but really, these brave students have made quite a bit of progress, but people need to realize that bullying will never really end. This is my opinion, I won't judge anyone who disagrees if you don't judge me.

  • garlow.john80
    12/16/2014 - 01:19 p.m.

    I think that it is a good thing to stand up to cyberbulling and everybody should help others out with it. Cyberbulling should really be filtered on websites or apps. Cyberbullying is not just mean it can have a permanent negative effect on some people where they will remember that day when someone called them names or bullied them online, and this could effect how they look at themselves.

  • Ashleypatt
    12/16/2014 - 01:50 p.m.

    I dont believe in cyber bullying. I dont think its right to do that to someone. What i think is that if you have a problem with someone then you go to them and you talk to them. We should figure out a way that bully over the internet can stop. Theres alot of people getting hurt over people saying roud stuff to the over the media websites.

  • TreyvaunT
    12/16/2014 - 01:53 p.m.

    I wish that all bullying would be stopped completely. I don't see how a bully gets amusement out of hurting other people. It also annoys me every time I get on facebook, there is people fighting and harassing somebody. Why can't people just mind their business, and leave people alone.

  • KiraWvA-4
    12/16/2014 - 08:09 p.m.

    Rutland High School, in Vermont, has received praise following a flurry of negativity on a popular app on the App Store, After School. The students petitioned the school to have their message board removed on the app, and then Apple to remove the app (the company agreed) after several students were cyberbullied on the anonymous message board. This drew positive feedback from the governor of the state and a fellow Vermonter who has been a cyberbullying-awareness activist since his son committed suicide. I like this article because it shows how students, without help from adults, can choose to make a change and then actually do it. And they're Vermonters.

  • JB2001Doge
    12/17/2014 - 08:41 a.m.

    I respect that these students are making a movement to cyber-bullying. We should do this more often with other reasons, like violence or bad diseases...

  • BAlyssa-Sti
    12/17/2014 - 10:13 a.m.

    Students at a Vermont high school are fighting back on cyber bulling. I think it is very cool that they are doing this. I don't think cyber bulling was ever a cool thing.

  • JSteven-Sti
    12/17/2014 - 11:16 a.m.

    M - The Main Idea is that Cyber bullying is and should be against the Law because it hurts other people and some people commit suicide because students bully them nonstop.

    E - The Evidence is that others have the have proof on their computers and phones of the horrible texts that others send to him.

    A - My opinion is that everybody who bully someone through their phone should have them removed from their possession.

    L - This whole process with everybody now days bullying others through their phones and on computers should know that is the wrong thing to do.

  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    12/17/2014 - 11:59 a.m.

    Fortunately, I do not believe that my school contains a lot of people interacting in cyberbullying, or any type of bullying to be honest. I feel that there is no tolerance for any type of bullying, and should be stopped.

  • veronicav-Koc
    12/17/2014 - 02:03 p.m.

    I think it's great that students at different high schools are putting up apps for online bullying. It's amazing how they ask to pull down an app that was hurting most kids being bullied & how they are starting to put an anonymous app for people to just post what they feel.

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