As anonymous applications make it increasingly popular for people to spill their secrets to strangers online, one is causing serious trouble for high schools.
The After School iOS app uses location and Facebook data to determine which school users attend, and displays messages posted from other students at their school. The app is completely anonymous, and says it can be used by people ages 12 and up for “funny, anonymous school news for confessions and compliments”—much like the famous Burn Book from the movie Mean Girls. Many of the posts on the app are vulgar and personally attack students. But by looking at the app’s logo, what more would someone expect?
One anonymous poster threatened to bring a gun to school, resulting in increased security at a Flushing, Mich., high school. MLive reports that Michigan police are making lists of students who used the application to help with the investigation, and the FBI is assisting in locating the app developer to serve a search warrant.
Students are poring over the application to see what gossip fellow classmates are posting, especially in Michigan school districts. Understandably, parents, students, and school administrators are upset. One student, Juliana Davis from Swartz Creek, Mich., started a Change.org petition to get the application removed from the App Store. She writes:
Bullying is already an enormous problem for us as high school students, and adding anonymous apps like these into the mix only makes things worse. With the shield of anonymity, users have zero accountability for their posts, and can openly spread rumors, call classmates hurtful names, send threats, or even tell someone to kill themselves—and all of these things are happening.
At least three Michigan school districts including Flushing, Davison, and Bentley, have sent letters home to parents warning them about the application, saying it’s highly offensive and should be deleted from devices. Timothy Stein, superintendent at Flushing Community Schools, described the gun threat and problems the application has caused in a letter to parents on Dec. 2.
purpose of the app continues to be in question and very concerning … We have also discovered that several of the individuals accessing the site have no
affiliation with the school, even though they claim to be Flushing High School students.
Last evening, further evidence of the problems this app creates came to light. Flushing High
School Principal, Jason Melynchek, received a text from a student to notify him of a posting
found on Afterschoolapp.com stating “Bringing a Gun to School.” While it was quickly
determined by law enforcement to not be a credible threat to the safety of our students and staff,
we always treat these situations very seriously.
There’s another problem plaguing the app that carries greater weight than locker room gossip—and it comes with potential jail time. The Burton, Mich., police department warned people not to use the app in a post on Facebook, and reminded parents and students that posting sexually explicit material of underage people and child pornography is a felony.
Some students are downloading the application to see if people are talking about them, but many are outraged by the it.