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Yik Yak app hit schools like ‘ton of bricks’

By Gary Lloyd

TRUSSVILLE — Yakety yak, don’t talk back.

That’s the message area school administrators are attempting to deliver to students about Yik Yak, a mobile app that allows users to post comments anonymously. It uses location services to bring comments to a user’s Yik Yak feed from others in a similar geographic region.

Trussville City Schools Superintendent Pattie Neill said Hewitt-Trussville High School’s administration contacted the system’s Technology Department about the app last Monday. The Technology Department reviewed Yik Yak policies and options for removing inappropriate content, Neill said. Among Yik Yak’s community guidelines are “You do not bully or specifically target other yakkers and there is a zero tolerance policy on using people’s full names and phone numbers.”

Trussville City Schools Superintendent Pattie Neill
file photo

“These guidelines are not being implemented or monitored by Yik Yak,” Neill said. “So, the decision was made to block the Yik Yak website within Trussville City Schools’ web filter, which would prevent students from using the school network to access the comments.”

Neill said the school system contacted Yik Yak about its concerns. She said the company responded with its apologies and two ways to report inappropriate content. One way is to have two people select the comment and click the report inappropriate button. The second way is to take a screen shot of the comment and email it to yikyakapp@gmail.com for immediate removal.

Clay-Chalkville High School Principal Michael Lee said the first few days the app was available, “it hit like a ton of bricks.” He said he’s spoken with area principals who have also had problems with Yik Yak.

“Any time there’s something out there where you can be anonymous and make false accusations or say things you think are funny, middle school and high school kids fall into that trap a lot of times,” Lee said.

Lee said because the app uses location services, messages can be seen by students at other area schools, like Hewitt-Trussville and Pinson Valley. He said it’s bullying and harassment via social media.

“I think the problem with an app like Yik Yak is the anonymity to it,” he said.

Clay-Chalkville High School Principal Michael Lee
file photo

Lee said the app has been disabled from all Jefferson County Schools wireless networks. Students, however, can still use the app if their WiFi is turned off. He said some students have come to the office to talk about the app and that he’s received emails from parents letting him know some of what they’ve seen.

Rules and consequences regarding Internet and cell phone use can be found in the Jefferson County Schools Code of Conduct, available at www.jefcoed.com.

“It’s just an added thing teachers and administrators are going to have to look for and understand and do the best we can to try to educate our kids about,” Lee said.

Lee said parents should be “nosy” and know what apps their children are using. Neill said it’s a good idea for parents to “monitor all digital activity” of their teens and make sure Yik Yak is not downloaded on their phones.

Lee normally makes announcements over the school’s intercom system about character education. The day after Yik Yak “took off,” Lee said, he didn’t. He talked about reputation versus character, about students not compromising their character for what their reputation could be. He said the classmate a student chooses to bully on social media could be the nurse that will save your life 10 years from now, could be the business owner that hires you.

“I just ended that by saying, ‘Don’t you hope they have good character?’” Lee said.

Contact Gary Lloyd at news@trussvilletribune.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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