Educators monitoring latest social media phone app

Brown County High School administrators are monitoring a smarpthone app that area police have flagged as potentially inappropriate for teens.

As many as 10 million people have downloaded the After School app, according to a news release from the company. The description says it provides a forum for current high school students to share memories, give details about upcoming parties or talk about what is happening during the school day within their school community.

As of Dec. 16, 319 Brown County High School students were registered on the app — about half the student body.

When you open the app on an Android, you will see many anonymous posts proclaiming love for classmates and the occasional inspirational quote.

But the story changes a bit when you open it on an iPhone. That version allows students to scan their ID to prove that they are at least 17 so they can have access to posts that may contain profanity, sexual, drug and “gross” content.

The iPhone version allows students to comment and view other comments on the anonymous posts; the Android version doesn’t show or allow comments.

The Shelbyville Police Department issued a warning about the app after a parent expressed concern about the anonymity.

“It has tabs that can be activated that talk about sex, drugs and other areas that our kids do not need to be subject to,” the post on the department’s Facebook page says.

The police department encouraged parents to check their children’s cellphones for the app.

The Washington Post recently reported on After School and its use for bullying and posting threats and illegal activity.

App creators say the anonymity allows students to freely express themselves, but Principal Shane Killinger said a student came to administrators last spring after being bullied on the app.

“The whole thing that makes it inappropriate is that it allows them to post anonymously,” Vice Principal Angie Evans said.

Evans monitors the app on her cellphone.

“We saw things that were funny. We saw things that were about love. Then we saw some things that were inappropriate,” Killinger said.

After the bullying report, Killinger and Evans decided to block access to the app on the high school’s Wi-Fi. The school’s technology department also reported the app to the iPhone App Store.

However, students can still access it using their own data plans.

Use of the app for bullying and illegal activities has not been reported this school year.

“We have not heard about this year, which is a good thing,” Killinger said.

After School reports that the app can only be downloaded by “verified” high school students at that student’s school.

However, anyone who has Brown County High School listed under “education” on their Facebook profile can download it, including parents.

Last week, posts on the BCHS After School site were still being published every day, including during school hours.

What's the phone policy?

The Brown County High School student handbook states that students are not allowed to have cellphones in class, but ultimately, the decision is left up to the teachers, said Principal Shane Killinger.

“We have some teachers who do not allow phones out, period,” he said.

Some teachers have cellphone boxes where students must place their phones until class is over.

Other teachers may allow phones in class if students need to use them as a calculator or if they’re playing the online classroom game “Kahoot!” They can use their phones as buzzers to answer quiz-style questions.

Cellphones are collected before tests.

Students can have them out during lunch and passing periods.

Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.