Facebook bullies back; no charges yet

  • Posted: Friday, February 25, 2011 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Sunday, August 21, 2011 12:19 a.m.

By Sarah Campbell
scampbell@salisburypost.com
An investigation into whether several local Facebook profiles posted content that violated the state’s anti-bullying law has yielded no charges.
“The current activity does not meet the elements required in the statute to charge someone with a violation of this law as it is currently written,” Capt. John Sifford of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday in an e-mail to the Post.
Sifford said the case will be closed unless new information surfaces.
“West Rowan Cryer” and two “Carson Cryer” profiles containing derogatory statements about specific Rowan-Salisbury School System students were removed by Facebook last Wednesday after violating the site’s terms of use.
Although those sites have been deleted, others continue to thrive.
The “Anonomys NorthGoer” and “North Rowan Truthess” pages appeared to be gone as of Wednesday, but “North Cryer,” “RoCo Cryer,” “John Cryer” and several other profiles are still around.
Sifford said each page is different and people should contact law enforcement if they suspect the state’s anti-bullying law is being violated. The law makes it illegal to intimidate or torment a minor online by means of building a fake profile or website.
Posting or encouraging others to post private, personal or sexual information pertaining to a minor on the Internet is also prohibited.
What’s next?
School officials said although some sites have been brought down, they are remaining vigilant about the issue.
“We are hearing rumors that other sites may have been created,” Rita Foil, the school system’s public information officer, said in an e-mail to the Post. “We will continue to work with law enforcement on this matter.”
Foil said Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom contacted high school principals last week to update them on the pages, asking them to be on the alert and report any such sites immediately.
Those who run across similar pages are also asked to contact the school’s principal and law enforcement.
Foil said the school system contacted Facebook last Thursday “requesting they remove the sites and monitor any other sites that contain slanderous and/or threatening comments.”
“We did hear back from them that this matter was being turned over to an internal team for review and follow-up,” she said.
Report abuse
Facebook spokeswoman Nicky Colaco said the company is concerned about any abusive behavior of its site.
“We encourage those who notice bullying to report it to us, and to discuss with parents, teachers and others in the community who can help,” she said in a statement.
Pages can be reported by clicking the “report abuse” button at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.
Despite repeated requests from a Post reporter, Facebook did not reveal how many times a page must be reported before being removed.
Facebook’s terms of use say the reporting infrastructure includes “systems to prioritize the most serious reports and a trained team of reviewers who respond to reports and escalate them to law enforcement as needed.”
Wendy Jackson said she’s taken matters into her own hands by keeping track of what has been said on various pages and making sure her son, who attends North Rowan Middle, doesn’t get involved.
“I was just shocked by the remarks made by these kids,” she said. “I try to keep it real to him what goes on in the world because you can’t hide everything, but this is too much.”
Jackson said her son doesn’t have a Facebook page.
“I do not allow that,” she said. “My computer also has parental precautions.”
Jackson said she thinks law enforcement should take a strong stance. “Some of the things I’ve seen are serious threats,” she said. “I would want to know who said it if they made a threat that involved my son and I think people would want to know who it is if somebody made a threat to the police chief.”
Make it stop
Patty Aftab, executive director of Wired Safety that operates the Stop Cyberbullying Coalition, said students need “to report it, don’t support it.”
Aftab said cyberbullying has become “far too common,” especially in rural areas.
“The small town rumormonger has exploded because of the existence of technology,” she said. “In a small town when you say something, everybody is paying attention.”
She said the best way to combat cyberbullying, which she considers an early warning sign of physical attacks, is through education.
“Schools need to teach students how not to be a cyberbully, teach them what to do if they are cyberbullied and train the teachers to understand what the risks are,” Aftab said.
The Rowan-Salisbury School System has provided bullying prevention training to all counselors and at least one administrator at each school. Schools are introducing anti-bullying curriculum.
Middle schools are implementing Second Step, a program that helps students learn how to make good choices and stay engaged in school despite the pitfalls of substance abuse, bullying, cyberbullying and peer pressure.
“Although we are limited to control the actions of students that are not on our campuses, we do have a Board of Education policy that addresses bullying and students that are in violation of this policy are disciplined in accordance with the RSS Code of Conduct,” Foil said in an e-mail.
But, Aftab said it’s up to the students to end cyberbullying.
“We need to start building an atmosphere where students stand up and don’t stand by,” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.

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