On Dec. 8, Mr. Larry Wooldridge (Principal) released a letter to parents regarding reports of cyberbullying. The letter was a response to the cyberbullying outbreak on the High School Confession Board, an anonymous Internet forum for high school students that had launched three days earlier.
Visitors of the website anonymously posted offensive comments about individual Manual students as well as comments about the students in the specific majors duPont Manual offers. Comments ranged from judgmental remarks about girls’ appearances to gripes about students’ personalities. Few students used a name or even a pseudonym.
“I’m friends with a lot of the people who were on there,” said Christa Iwu (11). “The manner in which they were saying those things really hurt my feelings because it was like they were insulting me second hand.”
Others blew off the criticism. “My name was mentioned on the site but I didn’t take it personally,” said Joyce Milford (12). “I didn’t realize the website was a serious issue or that the comments could be so harsh.”
But not all students took the comments lightly. According to Mr. Wooldridge, students went to the school’s offices looking for help dealing with the offensive comments. The administration took action immediately, reporting the incident to the JCPS legal department. They contacted the family of one of the site’s founders, Alex Zeltser, a Manual graduate and Carnegie Mellon University freshman. Zeltser’s mother asked him to take the site down immediately, which he did.
Zeltser, who hoped to turn the site into a profitable venture, defended his original vision. “The idea was a board where high school kids could talk freely and not have to worry about being judged. I took the idea from collegeacb.com, which was for colleges. It’s been around for a while.”
Collegeacb.com features similar content, like the High School Confession Board. He was aware of the controversy with Collegeacb.com but continued to pursue his version of the site for high school students. “I planned moderation but honestly, I had no idea it would explode this quickly,” he said. “I knew some people would put down others and that would be moderated, but certain posts–I don’t even know how they could go through people’s heads. It honestly shocked me.”
When RedEye reporters checked the site at 2:05 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, it had been disabled by its administrators. “Site is taken down, for good by the way,” Zeltser said at 2:28 p.m.
Zeltser’s vision of a forum where high school kids speak without fear of being judged was not one that was realized by Miranda Thompson (11), who was unhappy with the anonymous criticisms on the site. “That’s what people do, they judge people, and they finally found a way to let everyone know what they were thinking,” she said.
Zeltser condemned the hateful remarks, offering a final word after he disabled the site. “To the people whose posts were way out of line, take a good look at yourself in the mirror,” he said.
To view the Facebook chat interview between Alex Zeltser and Manual RedEye Reporter, Naiyana Williams, click here. [At Alex Zeltser’s request, we have removed the chat transcript.]
By Naiyana Williams, Beat/Calendar Editor