Jackson Students Bullied On Twitter

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

The new anti-bullying law isn't stopping an anonymous Twitter account from harassing students at several Jackson Area High Schools.

News 10 obtained copies of the Twitter feed, and they're too graphic to publish.

"You see there's hundreds and hundreds of tweets about students that are just humiliated, and their business, and whether it's true or not, I still don't think it's right," said Cierra Pryor, a senior at Jackson High School.

She said the person or persons behind the tweets have created several different accounts, and they're even posting pictures of students within the gruesome insults.

Jackson High School Principal Barbara Baird-Pauli wasn't aware of the issue, and cyberbullying creates a bit of a gray area compared to regular schoolyard situations.

"Electronically what may come to you may be different than what it is, and so, in our case meeting with our kids and getting clarification on what was intended or what was meant is what we do first," Baird-Pauli said.

She said any kind of bullying won't be tolerated, but first she'd speak with students, then involve parents. Baird-Pauli said she's focused on "teachable moments" for students, helping them see that respect is expected everywhere, including online.

Meanwhile, students at Lumen Christi Catholic High School approached their administration first with concerns over the tweets. Principal Christopher Smith said their course of action could involve police.

"We will do our due diligence and things will be pursued as appropriate from both the school end, and then any other authority that needs to be approached or contacted as a result of this," Smith said.

He said Twitter is just one more tool for students to make bad decisions, and he hopes people just do what's right, even if that means going to law enforcement.

The Michigan State Police said students shouldn't let every little word hurt, but also don't ignore real threats.

"If there's a pattern of unwanted communication, and we can establish it's coming from a certain person, then they could possibly be charged with stalking," said Michigan State Police Trooper Eric Bylerly.

State Police can obtain search warrants for computer IP addresses to track down a cyber bully, and in those instances, they've always found the person.

The bullying doesn't always have to be a repeated action though, and both schools said they have zero tolerance for any kind of bullying. Police and administration said they'll get to the bottom of this Twitter case, but that would it be impossible to monitor every social media interaction students have.

"I don't really care who it is, but I just think whoever it is needs to stop, because it's not funny," Pryor said.
To prevent cyberbullying from getting to the level of involving police, there are signs parents and teachers can look out for:

If a child unexpectedly stops using the computer or mobile device or begins using it more often; seems nervous or jumpy when a text message or social media notification appears; avoids discussions about what they're doing on their phone or computer; and doesn't want to go to school or visit with friends and family.

Police said Twitter and Facebook are often very cooperative with a person filing a report and canceling an account if someone has violated the site's conduct by using it for harassment.

It's also recommended that parents have an open discussion at home, and set rules for social media use.


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