“Beefed-up security” for Good Hope High School in response to social media threat

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GOOD HOPE – The anonymous social media platform Yik Yak has caused concern for officials with Good Hope High School, the Cullman County Board of Education and the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office, following a vague threat listed on the site on Friday, December 12.

“The poster indicated on Tuesday of this week there would be, something would transpire at Good Hope that people at Good Hope would remember and never forget,” said CCSO Chief Deputy Max Bartlett. “A portion of the post was in reference to some bullying.”

Cullman County Chief Deputy Max Bartlett said the report was made Friday morning after the school’s resource officer, Deputy David Dover, discovered the alleged threat.

“We have beefed up security at Good Hope High School and basically that is all we can do at this time. Is it a serious threat? We don’t know. But we cannot take a chance, we can’t just blow it off either. We have to respond in a proper manner and try to identify this person,” said Bartlett.

According to Yik Yak’s Terms of Use Policy:

“Yik Yak is an anonymous messaging app that allows users to create and view posts – called Yaks – within a 10 mile radius. Users can also expand the conversation by posting replies to existing Yaks. Yik Yak is available as a free mobile app for both iOS and Android.”

In a press release issued by Cullman County Superintendent Dr. Craig Ross late Sunday evening, he stated, “Although, we do not suspect this to be a real threat we are treating it as such and taking necessary precautions. The school will have additional law enforcement located on campus and the faculty and staff will be on high alert. The safety of our students and faculty are as always our top priority.”

Chief Deputy Bartlett said the threat has been taken seriously. He said the person or persons responsible could possibly face a felony charge of terroristic threats.

“I want to remind if it is just a prank that someone is trying to pull, I want to remind them that this type of prank can carry serious consequences for persons who do this. It can be classified as making a terroristic threat, which is a felony, and we will not hesitate to utilize or make people accountable who do those things,” he said.

According to Yik Yak’s website, a listing of guidelines for law enforcement in regards to unlawful use of the application, which can be viewed at http://www.yikyakapp.com/legal/, may serve useful for local agencies as they pursue the person or persons responsible for the threat.

“According to the app’s privacy policy, law enforcement can request the IP address/author of posts that are considered an emergency situation. Officer Dover, the Good Hope local school resource officer, and the Sheriff and District Attorney have requested that information from Yik Yak to trace the threat back to the author,” stated Dr. Ross. “We are waiting on the response from Yik Yak. We will pursue legal consequences against the person responsible for this threat.”

In response to the threat, along with other vulgar posts, Dr. Ross has banned all cellphone use at Good Hope High School.

“Students were posting offensive comments, name calling and sending abusive messages using the Yik Yak app. In addition to the inappropriate posts, a threat was made toward the school stating something was going to happen on Tuesday,” stated Dr. Ross.

Bartlett said it is an active investigation, which is seeking assistance from outside agencies in tracking down the person or persons responsible for the threat. He is asking anyone with information to come forward.

“We are working to try to identify the poster of this incident. We are asking that if anyone knows anything about that, has firsthand information about the identity of this person, we ask they come forward and assist us in being able to speak with this person,” he said. “In the meantime we are trying to discover the identity of the person with the related help of outside law enforcement agencies and through the District Attorney’s office to gain information that will help us.”

Chief Deputy Bartlett asked that anyone with information, please call 256-734-0432 and request to speak with someone in investigation or administration.

Below is a listing of the information and guidelines Yik Yak extends to law enforcement.

Law Enforcement Guidelines

These guidelines are for law enforcement officials seeking information about Yik Yak user accounts. When Yik Yak receives a request for user account information from a government agency investigating criminal activity, the Yik Yak team reviews each request to be sure that it satisfies all legal requirements. Yik Yak is committed to cooperating with law enforcement while respecting each individual’s right to privacy.

What Account Information Does Yik Yak Have?

Messages posted on Yik Yak are public, so anyone can see them. Yik Yak is an anonymous service – users do not register or create account names – and Yik Yak does not ask its users to provide their real names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, or any other identifying information. Yik Yak does maintain a log, however, of the following information for each message posted:

  • The IP address from which the message was posted;
  • The GPS coordinates of the location from which the message was posted;
  • The time and date when the message was posted.