Yik Yak bullying leads districts to ban app

WEST LAKE HILLS, Texas (KXAN) – You send your children to school to get an education. But these days we’re hearing way too much about students bullying other students. And now they’re using an app called Yik Yak to do it anonymously.

It’s meant to be fun. You post a random anonymous thought for others to read. But it’s also caused problems across the country and now right here in Central Texas.

KXAN spent the day in West Lake Hills where school officials have banned students from using the app.

Carl Hooker is the director of innovation and digital learning for Eanes ISD.

“Yik Yak creates communities to allow people to share information, post jokes, observations…” he says.

But unfortunately,  school officials with Eanes ISD say some students at Westlake High School are using it to bully other students; making fun of their weight or how they look.

“We had a block put up on our filters which was great, but the problem was that their cell phones were able to get through it,” he explained.

School officials sent home a letter to parents warning them about the negative and demeaning comments being made about students and staff. But because it’s anonymous it’s hard for school officials to track down who’s behind it.

We asked school officials if enough is being done to protect students.

“At school yes. For everything we can do we’re doing with our own devices, our own wireless [network],” Hooker says.

But the district says it’s also up to parents to keep an eye on the apps their kids are downloading.

If identified, students can be suspended or even expelled.

Yik Yak told KXAN in a written statement the district can sign up to have it’s schools barred from the service using a geo-fencing technology.

Yik Yak was created to provide users with a forum for positive, hyper-local interactions. We strongly discourage any misuse and took the proactive measure of geo-fencing the app on 85 percent of middle school and high school campuses in the US. Additionally, we require users to be 17 years of age or older to utilize Yik Yak to ensure the user base is age appropriate and parents can easily block the app on their children’s phones. The app monitors conversations and posts, and any negative or harmful behavior will result in the respective user being blocked, or altogether banned from future use. We are proactively working to geo-fence additional middle schools and high schools, as well as continuing to coordinate with school administrators to block the use of Yik Yak at these schools.

In this instance, we are working with the Eanes Independent School District to address the issue of misuse. If a school administrator or parent sees the app being used maliciously at a high school or middle school, we encourage them to visit our website and request that a particular school be geo-fenced.”

We also found out today the social media app has been banned from at least two other local school districts. An AISD spokesperson said Yik Yak was blocked on school devices and networks in May. Round Rock ISD has a filtering service that blocks Yik Yak to all students and staff in the network.

An app or website is only allowed in the network after a specific case-by-case review.

The app has also become a tool for students to threaten others on college campuses. Ariel Arias is facing two felony charges after police say he threatened students at the University of Georgia. Officers say Arias allegedly posted quote, “If you want to live don’t be at the MLC at 12:15.” At the time, the threat was considered credible and a bomb squad was sent to the area. Arias later admitted it was all a prank.

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