A new app is adding another layer to the complex and dangerous world of cyberbullying. Students at Happy Valley High School were given a warning loud and clear Friday, that the use of cell phones during school hours would not be tolerated.
But part of the message got lost in translation, creating a chaotic situation surrounding an app called “Streetchat.”
News Channel 11’s Kylie McGivern traveled to the high school after receiving a tip from a parent.
On Apple, Streetchat is described as an image board for schools and collages, where you can “get a live feed of what people are posting in your school or college. Streetchat is an anonymous bulletin board to post photos to the people in your school. It is a fast reliable way to share your thoughts, gossip and talk about things around you.”
A day after learning about the app Streetchat, Secondary Director of Schools Danny McClain took it upon himself to make sure all Carter County principals were made aware as well.
“I phoned the principals this morning – did tell them we have a board policy concerning cell phone use at the high schools and at the elementary schools. We would follow that board policy. Any student using Streetchat, or a cell phone at any time during the school day, could possibly lead to repercussions.,” McClain said. “There was some postings made that were not appropriate.”
Happy Valley High School Principal Terry Hubbard got on the intercom to remind students of the cell phone policy, and told News Channel 11 she announced that any incidents of bullying or harassment would be turned over to law enforcement. But what many students took away, was this:
“They were like, ‘The FBI’s coming!’ People started just like freaking out,” student Reno Hartley said.
Hubbard and McClain told News Channel 11 the FBI was only mentioned in reference to a student assembly FBI members are holding September 16th on social media, and within that, cyberbullying. The assembly will be held at Happy Valley High School.
But whatever was lost in translation, seemed to create a firestorm.
“When I got out of class, I walked in the hallway, kids were piled up together, and then people were on their phones, looking at Streetchat, going crazy about, posting things about the FBI, how they’re coming,” Hartley said, “It just started this huge wildfire.”
“This morning it just kind of blew up that we were aware that the app was there,” McClain said.
McClain told News Channel 11 what makes it worse than Facebook when it comes to cyberbullying is, “It ties to the school… it actually encourages anonymous posting about your school.”
After downloading Streetchat ourselves, we scrolled through many of the posts – a lot of them pictures with captions on them, or “memes.” Some of them very harmless – others, anything but, with vulgar language posted over pictures of students.
“There were a couple of students who came and spoke to Mrs. Hubbard or to the SRO, that alleged they were being bullied through this app,” McClain said.
Reno:”When I first got the app I thought hey, this is kind of fun. You post about other people, people post about you, you laugh about it.”
Kylie: “Have you seen a lot of bullying on there?”
Reno: “Well… At first no, not really. And then it started a little bit more, getting bullying and stuff.”
Even though every student at Happy Valley may not have agreed on the delivery…
“Why make every child in the school freak out?” Reno said.
…the message made an impact.
Kylie: “Would you use it again?”
Reno: “No. Never. I’m never using it again because it got out of hand.. it’s the kind of app you use for like a day, and you find out it’s not the app for – anybody, really.”