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Student-made app shut down on Sacramento campuses after cyberbullying claims

Cyberbullying claims leads to app shut down on Sacramento campuses
Cyberbullying claims leads to app shut down on Sacramento campuses 02:55

SACRAMENTO - A San Juan Unified School District student's app is creating controversy on campuses after claims students are being cyberbullied in the anonymous posts.

What is different with the Only Social app than other social media platforms is that it is central to Sacramento schools after being started by a student at Rio Americano High School.

That is why some students and parents said the anonymous posts feel targeted.

"It's just people making jokes," said Julian Pratt, a senior at Rio Americano.

Pratt said the creator of the app is one of his classmates and about 80% of students are on it.

"Because of the anonymousness, I think it's kind of hard to figure out who it is," said Liam Miller, a senior at Rio Americano.

Take a scroll through the app and you will find photos posted of students with questionable captions some claim is cyberbullying. Other people said students have been using the platform to cheat on tests.

Principal Cliff Kelly sent out a letter to parents addressing the app. In it, he details how the mobile app encourages anonymous posts by users, and many posts being shared include statements of bullying and harassment.

Kelly confirms that the app creation was not part of a school assignment and that the mobile app has been blocked from being accessed on the district's network. It is still accessible using a cellular provider's network.

The letter from the principal said, in part:

"Although we do not have any authority over the mobile app, I have met with the student to discuss concerns raised by students and community. We have learned that the student creator of the app is developing additional moderation features for the conversations that are occurring within the platform. 

We encourage our students and families to reach out to school staff with any concerns or needs for support you may have. School counselors are available to help support our students and families." 

You do not need to be a student at San Juan Unified to download the Only Social app. Anyone can search for it in the app store and use an email to sign up.

"It's just like any social media. It's just interesting that a student made it," said another student at Rio Americano.

The student-made app is spreading to other Sacramento campuses like Jesuit High School. Administrators there said counselors are available to anyone being bullied by the incredibly harmful content.

Jesuit High School Principal Dr. Michael Wood gave us this statement, which reads, in part:

"The app has created an easily accessible and unmonitored environment that has resulted in rampant cyberbullying. Given the platform's anonymity, it is impossible to confirm who is posting bullying and defamatory content."

"We are deeply saddened and distressed that teens from several local schools may be victims of its incredibly harmful content. Members of the counseling department are available daily for confidential conversations and to support our families. We are grateful for the students who have come forward to trusted adults at their school to share their concerns about the app and who are taking steps to support their peers being harmed."

"I feel like it's not meant to hurt people. Like it's a good idea for an app, but it's just being taken the wrong way," Pratt said.

In the age of social media, students said it is not hard to hide behind a screen whether on this app or another.

"I don't believe anything on there is with bad intention or trying to make anyone feel down or something like that," senior at Rio Americano Ammar Albadani said.

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