Brunswick County working to block new social media app use in schools

Yik Yak bomb threats against high school
Published: Oct. 2, 2014 at 9:58 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 10, 2014 at 10:42 PM EDT
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“Individuals who have violated the law [Thursday] using Yik Yak will be brought to justice,”...
“Individuals who have violated the law [Thursday] using Yik Yak will be brought to justice,” Swencki said. ( Source: WECT)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The Brunswick County Sheriff's office is investigating two bomb threats made against South Brunswick High School Thursday via the social media app "Yik Yak."

Jessica Swencki, a spokesperson for Brunswick County schools, said the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office and Yik Yak developers are actively working to reveal the identity of the poster quickly and pursue criminal charges against them under the statute, "making a false report concerning mass violence on educational property," which is a felony.

Despite the app's claim that postings are anonymous, Yik Yak's developers have openly cooperated with law enforcement to reveal the GPS location and IP address for the person who made the threats.

Yik Yak representative Jack Bunting said, "in addition to monitoring traffic for misuse and / or harmful posts, Yik Yak makes a point to work with law enforcement and other officials when a post is violent in nature. Whenever possible, Yik Yak works alongside local authorities to help with investigations."

"Individuals who have violated the law using Yik Yak will be brought to justice," Swencki said. "They will be accountable for their actions."

Swencki desperately urges parents to talk to their children about their cellular activity to prevent any future threats from disrupting classes or jeopardizing students' safety.

"This app is rated for 17 and older, so parents should hopefully be having conversations with their children about the apps they have on their phones," Swencki said.

Erika Geisler, a child and family psychologist, said the anonymous nature of the app opens up the door to harmful bullying scenarios.

"If there's no accountability there for them, they're going to experiment with things that actually can be very detrimental to them, not only to themselves but to the person who's reading what they're saying," Geisler said.

Swencki said bullying is a violation of the Brunswick County Student Code of Conduct and can result in a student's suspension regardless if it's using an app like Yik Yak or in person.

"We think it's important for parents to understand and have conversations with their children about the fact that an app like this should not be used to hurt other individuals, Swencki said. "Students are very tech savvy. Your child can leave home in the morning and not have the app downloaded on their phone and they can download it very quickly. They can even delete it before they get home in the afternoon."

Swencki said the school system takes Thursday's threats very seriously and is working with Yik Yak to install a "geo fence" around every school in the district to disable use of the app on campuses.

"If an administrator or parent sees the app being used maliciously at a high school, middle school or elementary school, they can go to our website to request that the particular school be geo-fenced," Bunting explained.

A New Hanover County Schools spokesperson says they have had no issues with the social media app and don't have plans to block it from use in school.

Copyright 2014 WECT. All rights reserved.