‘Distracting’ app causes school-shooting scare

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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An anonymous post on a smartphone app led to panic and confusion at an Alabama school Wednesday after one user warned of a shooting on campus.

The message on the social media app Yik Yak said a shooting was imminent at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile, and set off a series of rumors administration officials spent the day dispelling.

Yik Yak allows users to send a message anonymously from their phones to other Yik Yakkers, and only reveals the geographic location of the source without any other identifying information.

“Our administration, faculty and staff have all been notified to be extra cautious, and in addition to our regular police officer and campus security, we have another police officer on duty all week,” McGill-Toolen president Rev. Bry Shields said in a message to parents on Wednesday.

“The DA’s office and Mobile police are investigating and hope to identify the user soon. Please know that as always, the safety of our students is our number one priority,” Shields said. reports another Mobile school restricted the use of smartphones during class Monday because of the same app, which lets users post messages anonymously and has led to cyberbullying and other “disturbing incidents.”

“These apps make available to students an opportunity to exchange very unpleasant information about individuals,” UMS-Wright Preparatory School Principal Doug Barber said in an email to the campus community. “I understand that not only are some of you reading and downloading the apps but also participating in disparaging remarks.”

“What is different is that this particular app has just all of a sudden caused a major disruption during the school day,” Headmaster Tony Havard said. “Kids were getting very insulting, troubling messages that were causing them to be very distracted.”

The school plans to implement a firewall against Yik Yak, and is restricting smartphone use during school hours until the site is blocked.

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