Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’

Cyberbullied Teen Fights Back

April 28, 2012

Well done Alex! Good on you for bypassing a useless system that tacitly allows cyberbullies to wreak havoc and for standing up for yourself. Your school should have protected you, but instead, reportedly hid behind the old “it happened off campus” excuse. I am sick to death of this excuse. Kids are taking their own lives because of cyberbullying. It takes a heartless school not to intervene when clear cases of cyberbullying come to light.

When the police and her school failed to act, it was great to see that Alex and her parents found a more effective avenue. They slapped the bullies with a lawsuit:

When a Georgia middle school student reported to police and school officials that she had been bullied on Facebook, they told her there was not much they could do because the harassment occurred off campus.

So the 14-year-old girl, Alex Boston, is using a somewhat novel strategy to fight back: She’s slapping her two classmates with a libel lawsuit.

As states consider or pass cyberbullying laws in reaction to high-profile cases around the country, attorneys and experts say many of the laws aren’t strong enough, and lawsuits such as this one are bound to become more commonplace.

“A lot of prosecutors just don’t have the energy to prosecute 13-year-olds for being mean,” said Parry Aftab, an attorney and child advocate who runs stopcyberbullying.org. “Parents are all feeling very frustrated, and they just don’t know what to do.”

Almost every state has a law or other policy prohibiting cyberbullying, but very few cover intimidation outside of school property.

Alex, who agreed to be identified to raise awareness about cyberbullying, remembers the mean glances and harsh words from students when she arrived at her suburban Atlanta middle school. She didn’t know why she was being badgered until she discovered the phoney Facebook page. It was her name and information, though her profile picture was doctored to make her face appear bloated.

The page suggested Alex smoked marijuana and spoke a made-up language called “Retardish.” It was also set up to appear that Alex had left obscene comments on other friends’ pages, made frequent sexual references and posted a racist video. The creators also are accused of posting derogatory messages about Alex.

“I was upset that my friends would turn on me like that,” she told The Associated Press. “I was crying. It was hard to go to school the next day.”

Alex learned of the phoney page a year ago and told her parents, who soon contacted administrators at Palmer Middle School and filed a report with Cobb County Police.

“At the time this report was taken in May 2011, we were not aware of any cyberbullying law on the books that would take her specific situation and apply it to Georgia law,” said Cobb County police spokesman Sgt. Dana Pierce.

Police encouraged the Boston family to report the fake account to Facebook. Alex’s family said despite requests to Facebook to take the page down, the company did not do so. The website was taken down around the time the lawsuit was filed a week ago.

We keep on hearing about Facebook’s determination to stop bullying, and that they are vigilant when concerns are raised over cyberbullying. To refuse to delete this page (as has been alleged) is disgraceful. Only when the lawsuit was filed did they respond. What message does that send?

I hope this story puts some major stakeholders on notice. First there are the bullies who hide behind their computer screens as they attempt to dismantle a classmate’s self-esteem. Then there are the police who could at least advocate on behalf of the victim that Facebook take down the offensive material.

My strongest admonition goes to schools. Enough with the excuses! If you are not willing to get involved in serious cases of bullying, regardless of where the bullying takes place, you don’t deserve the privellege of looking after our children. Smarten up!

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Police Handcuff a 6-Year Old Student

April 18, 2012

I wasn’t there so I should be careful not to be too critical, but I can’t help but wonder how calling the police on a 6-year old having a severe tantrum is the right way to go. I feel this drastic step is a very bad look for the school. It gives the message that all is not right at the place where parents trust that their child is safe and well cared for. When a 6-year old presents such a risk that police are required, it doesn’t say a great deal about the school’s capacity to deal with problem students, especially older ones.

Police in Georgia defended their decision Tuesday to handcuff and arrest a 6-year-old elementary student after the school called to report a juvenile had assaulted a principal and was damaging school property.

Milledgeville police said they were called to Creekside Elementary School on Friday for an unruly juvenile, who was allegedly throwing a tantrum.

According to their report, when the officer arrived, he observed kindergartner Salecia Johnson on the floor of the principal’s office screaming and crying.

The officer stated in the report that he noticed damage to school property and tried numerous times to calm the girl, who eventually “pulled away and began actively resisting and fighting with me.”

“The child was then placed in handcuffs for her safety and the officer proceeded to bring her down to the police station,” said Chief Dray Swicord.

Despite the girl’s behavior, her family said police should not have been involved.

“I don’t think she misbehaved to the point where she should have been handcuffed and taken downtown to the police department,” Johnson’s aunt, Candace Ruff, told CNN affiliate WMAZ.

The girl was released to Ruff after numerous attempts to reach her parents failed, the police report said.

Swicord said his department still has not heard from the girl’s mother or father.

But the parents have spoken to reporters.

“Call the police? Is that the first step?” Johnson’s mother, Constance Ruff, asked.

Johnson’s mother said she wondered if there was “any other kind of intervention” the school could have used to help her daughter.

“They don’t have no business calling the police and handcuffing my child,” said Salecia’s father, Earnest Johnson.

I also wonder why the school couldn’t have dealt with this in-house, or at least call a family member before resorting to getting the police involved.

Having said that, I feel that the parents should have declined interviews and resisted finger-pointing, and instead focussed on the behaviour of their child. That child needs to know that her behaviour was unacceptable and dangerous. By focussing on the school’s handling of the incident, the parents seem to be sending the message that this behaviour was somehow excusable.

I am also quite comfortable with the police’s handling of the situation. Once called, they have every right to use handcuff should they deem it necessary to subdue the child.

There are millions of loving parents out there with often a lack of choice when it comes to the schools their child can go to. They need to have the confidence that if an incident erupts the school has the wherewithal to deal with the problem in a calm and thorough manner.

By calling the police on a 6-year old, I wonder what message that sends to parents who have no choice but to trust that their child’s school is capable of looking after its students.


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