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

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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. Then they 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 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.

"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. 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?

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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

  • kailar-Pip
    12/23/2014 - 10:20 a.m.

    He agreed and realized it wasn't being very helpful for some schools. So they took it down, probably so they didn't get a lawsuit against them.

  • courtv-Pip
    12/23/2014 - 10:21 a.m.

    The reason the co-founder used to avoid accepting responsibility was the After School app. The school used this app to try and avoid other students from being Cyber bullied, but the app did not stop the problem. John Halligan states that he had spoke to R

  • caileyb-Pip
    12/23/2014 - 10:22 a.m.

    This article was very interesting and I think that every school should be using anti-cyber bullying foundations. the co-founder got the app deleted instead of taking responibilty of the negative action someone was using wth the app.

  • kristens-Pip
    12/23/2014 - 10:24 a.m.

    I think that cyber bullying is horrible because lots of people committed suicide over cyber bullying. people that have been cyber bullied they should report it to the government and try to get this stuff taken care of because we really don't need anymore people/ children committing suicide because they are getting bullied we should all do something about this. its really getting out of hand.

  • emilym-Pip
    12/23/2014 - 10:24 a.m.

    Many people/students have these apps. At least I know that I did... I deleted the app when it got really negative about others and myself. Cyber bullying affects many lives all around me but, not to serious.

  • laurenm-Pip
    12/23/2014 - 10:25 a.m.

    The apps co-founder aid that the app was intended to be used to help students from the same school connect with others within their school. The students could also post anonymous messages about what is going on in their town.

  • vanessas-Pip
    12/23/2014 - 10:25 a.m.

    The app's co-founder said that the app is supposed to help students form group tied to a specific school and post anonymous messages about what's going on in town.

  • emilyb-Pip
    12/23/2014 - 10:25 a.m.

    Cyberbullying needs to be stopped, to many kids are taking there lives because of it. Some people don't know how hurtful their words are. Most of the kids who put those hateful words online wont even say they to the other persons face.

  • kaitc-Pip
    12/23/2014 - 10:25 a.m.

    The co-founder used his sons death (suicide) for an argument against the app, showing the abusive way it was used. If the app was able to push someone far enough to commit suicide, it shouldn't be used.

  • courtv-Pip
    12/23/2014 - 10:26 a.m.

    The reason that the co-founder used to avoid accepting responsibility way the After School app. They used this app to try and avoid other students from being Cyber Bullied while in school, but the idea of using that app fell through because the students started standing up for one another. John Halligan stated that he had spoke to Rutland High School two years ago and he had told the principal " I'm really proud of these kids," he also said that the students finally got the message that they need to stand up for each other and push back against the bullying behavior.

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