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Vermont high school students gossiped about sex lives of peers, faculty

A Vermont high school student is under fire for using a social media app targeted at Gen Z students to anonymously mock a classmate with a disability and make speculations about others’ sexual orientation, according to reports.

FizzSocial, a private message board founded by two Stanford University students that billed it as “an uplifting digital space for Gen Z,” is being blamed for wreaking havoc at Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg, about 15 miles south of Burlington.

The school’s 1,300 students were encouraged to sign up to Fizz Social through an Instagram ad and share their “anonymous CVU confessions and love stories.” According to the Wall Street Journal.

A social media app that allows young people to post anonymously has reportedly caused chaos at a Vermont high school. The image above is a stock photo of teenagers using smartphones. Drazen – stock.adobe.com

When students began posting in early May, the comments were mostly harmless, but some commenters began speculating about their classmates’ sexual orientation, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Others uploaded photos of students who had been mocked for their appearance or disabilities, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The rumors soon got worse.

Photos of students spotted at the party were uploaded to message boards, with commenters insinuating they were on drugs or intoxicated.

The app was also used to spread rumors about alleged romantic relationships between teachers and other staff and faculty members, with some reportedly speculating that teachers were having affairs with students.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, posts on the app often went viral because students had the option to “upvote” messages, causing them to appear higher in the app’s feed.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Fizz became a talking point in the school’s hallways and cafeterias, with students constantly checking the app to see if their names were mentioned.

“I was shocked and dismayed at how quickly this app has caused damage,” Vermont schools superintendent Adam Bunting told The Wall Street Journal.

Fizz Social is a private message board where college and high school students can post anonymously. Fizz Social/Website

The Fizz Social app has been compared to Yik Yak, a social media app that has been banned in several schools because it was being used by college students to anonymously bully and harass others, with some schools having to be evacuated due to bomb threats and gun violence threats made through the app.

Bunting told the Journal that students tearfully complained to guidance counselors.

One senior student had to be persuaded to finish the year and graduate after considering quitting school altogether, Bunting said.

The principal instructed parents to contact the app’s developers to remove the school from the app, and on May 7, Fizz agreed to temporarily remove CVU.

“Our student community spoke out after the anonymous memes and posts on Fizz became cruel,” Ms Bunting told the Post.

“Fizz describes the state of Vermont and our school as an exception, and I agree. Our children have very little tolerance for apps that encourage gossip,” the principal added.

Ashton Cofer, who founded the app in 2020 with his then-Stanford classmate Teddy Solomon, told The Wall Street Journal that Fizz is used by students at more than 240 universities.

The app was rolled out to high schools in April, and as of Monday, 60 high schools had signed up for it.

Fizz has 113,000 monthly active users, more than double the number it had a year ago, according to marketing data cited by The Wall Street Journal.

Since its launch, it has been downloaded 600,000 times.

Students at Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg, Vermont, were left in tears by a gossip story posted on Fizz Social. Xavier Lorenzo – stock.adobe.com

Solomon told the Journal that what happened at CVU was an “exception” and that typical user experiences at other schools have been positive.

He said 90% of the app’s high school and college users report that the app makes them feel more accepted and connected.

“I look at this as a learning opportunity,” Solomon said of what happened at CVU.

CVU is the latest school to request to be removed from the app. Parents at the San Francisco-based Catholic prep school were outraged earlier this year when students wrote “racist social media posts” through Fizz. According to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Some universities in Florida and North Carolina have banned students from downloading the app.

“Since the beginning of Fizz, our goal has been to promote inclusivity and bring people together in authentic ways,” the company said in a statement when asked by the Chronicle earlier this year about the incidents at colleges and high schools.

“Generation Z is the loneliest generation, and Instagram and other social media platforms like TikTok are only exacerbating the loneliness epidemic by acting as a highlight reel that further divides students.”

The Post has reached out to Cofer and Solomon for comment.

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