The educational thoughts of Jason Epstein
THE PERSONAL VIEWS, OPINIONS AND COMMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE SOLELY THOSE OF THE BLOG’S AUTHOR IN HIS PERSONAL CAPACITY, AND ARE NOT ENDORSED BY ANY OTHER PERSON OR ENTITY.
A spat on Facebook over a recent killing might have led to a fight at Knightdale High School last week.
Dominique Royster's Facebook page erupted into expletives and insults after Royster called for the release of Mariah Wisdom from jail. After her Facebook posting and the angry response, Royster received death threats on her cell phone. She was kept out of school for several days until emotions cooled, and her parents had a chance to talk to school administrators about the situation. A member of the school staff who deals with disciplinary problems was assigned to shadow her as she went through the day March 26, her first day back at school after the killing. Four students were cited with misdemeanor assault and released to their parents in connection with the attack.
The calls began coming in Monday. A horrified guidance counselor, a teacher, and then a student lit up Boston’s new antibullying tip line, telling officials about multiple Facebook pages that featured pictures of female high school students with derogatory and sexually explicit captions beneath them.
Students and city and school officials say they have found at least 15 Facebook pages over the last few days that use obscene or hateful language to target female students, as well as a handful of male students, school administrators, and teachers at schools in Boston and surrounding communities. Boston officials have been scrambling to have the pages removed and have been meeting to figure out how to address the apparent cyberbullying and find the culprits. But as the offending Facebook pages come down, new ones go up. School officials and police are struggling to identify the perpetrators, who have been using fake names when they register with Facebook to create the pages. Police say they could pursue criminal charges if they determine that perpetrators have violated victims’ civil rights.
School bullying is nothing new. But since Prince's suicide, it has taken on a much darker significance, one that prosecutors are taking seriously. On Monday, criminal charges were brought against the nine students who allegedly led the harassment. And parents and school administrators in South Hadley are under intense scrutiny as well. They face tough questions about what happened to Prince and whether they could have done more to prevent her death.