Bullying Hits Home For Teen
Joyce Pellino Crane, Boston Globe, June 30, 2005
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Life threw Molly
Reddington a few curveballs this school year, but she didn't
expect a dose of cyberworld cruelty to go with it.
While she was on a school trip to Costa Rica in April, a handful
of Reddington's so-called friends at Milton High School went to
a popular Internet website and created sexually explicit journal
entries in her name, making it appear as if she were having
immodest exploits while overseas.
It was a cruel lesson in how alter egos can emerge on the
Internet from beneath the cloak of anonymity, injure feelings,
and escape with few consequences. The Milton 10th-graders were
merely admonished for what they did: entering a world of
conflict and cyberbullying that many parents know little about
and that many school officials seem helpless to prevent.
Cyberbullying "is a growing problem," said Jacqueline Klosek, a
New York lawyer who is employed by Boston-based Goodwin Procter.
"There's a lot more attention being focused on it as of late.
The use of the technology is very high and growing among
children." Klosek's practice focuses on issues related to data
privacy. She also drafts and negotiates technology agreements
and conducts legal audits of websites, according to the legal
At Abington's Frolio Junior High School, assistant principal
Robert F. Murphy said he has handled about a half-dozen minor
Internet incidents, in which insults made through cyberspace
landed heavy on someone's heart, this school year.
"One day they could be friends," he said of the students, "and
they send a message and somebody gets mad at what's being said,
and they have an argument."
Murphy said the school's key concern is to make sure the
controversy begun on a home computer doesn't escalate at school.
"Most of what we do is mediation, because if it happens at night
on the home computer, our authority is limited," he said.
Cyberbullying plagues the virtual world of many teenagers, and
adds another layer of complication to their lives. Reddington,
16, returned form Costa Rica to find her friendships were
fractured and her trust shattered.
"I keep asking myself why they would do such a thing -- because
there was nothing I had ever done to make them hate me," she
The postings were entered on LiveJournal.com, a website where
users share journal entries, called blogs, with friends.
Reddington's sister Amanda, 18, said she discovered the
degrading entries while reading a variety of postings.
Blogs are web logs that are regularly updated entries on any
subject of the writer's choice, and e-mailed or shared through
links on the Internet. There are numerous blogging sites that
require users to register personal identifying information, and
to abide by the site's rules and regulations. LiveJournal's
basic offering is free, though users could upgrade their service
for a fee. Other popular avenues for cyberbullying among teens
include e-mail messaging, website creations, and instant
messaging -- a service provided by America Online and Microsoft
that enables individuals to carry on multiple text conversations
Cyberbullying has become so prevalent among secondary school
students nationwide that the subject was featured in a People
magazine article in March. But the issue has been brewing for
several years, since online communication became fashionable and
Five years ago, when Danielle Cameron was 13, two 11-year-old
neighborhood girls entered an America Online chat room
pretending to be her. At their family computers, inside their
Duxbury homes, and without Cameron knowing, they connected with
an older man and gave him Cameron's personal contact
information. When his online requests to meet landed in
Cameron's inbox, the police were called.
"I didn't know who this guy was," said Cameron, now a sophomore
at Fairfield University in Connecticut. "He said he wanted to
meet me. It was scary."
Kevin Krim, head of subscription services for San
Francisco-based Six Apart, the parent company of LiveJournal.com,
said impersonators are immediately locked out of the website
once they are discovered.
"We suspend it, and immediately the content goes away," he said.
"As a followup, we typically try to find out who created it. If
they are a member of the community, we will try to suspend their
account as well."
Reddington was one of six friends, ages 15 and 16, who were
posting legitimate journal entries to the website earlier in the
school year. But things turned sinister when two members of the
group posed as Reddington and described her sexual involvement
with a Costa Rican named Juan.
"Hey lovies, still in Costa Rica getting a nice tan!" wrote the
impersonators. "I was in the elevator going to my room last
night and it stopped all of a sudden. The only other person in
there was this older man named juan. [sic] His hands were so
gentle and loving. I thought I could be there all night justss
[sic] stuck in the elevator . . ."
Reddington said when she returned from her trip to learn of the
prank, she fell apart emotionally. In December she had lost her
father after a brief illness, and her 16-year-old best friend
was critically ill. The friend died this month.
"It saddens me that there are people in this world who kick
somebody when they're down," said Reddington. "With everything
I've been through so far, it was one last thing that I couldn't
Faced with the first incident of its kind at the school, Milton
High principal John Drottar said administrators helped resolve
the matter. "The assistant principal in our Resource Center met
with the kids concerned," he said. "We told them that was
unacceptable, and they shut down the site and were apologetic."
Not satisfied, Reddington's mother, Catherine Reddington, filed
a report with the Milton Police Department, only to learn there
was little, if any, protection from the arrows flying at her
"I'm not aware of any legislative act that would put this in a
crime context. . . . They identified the people involved," said
Police Chief Kevin Mearn. "There was an apology and a stern
admonishment not to engage in this type of activity."
Klosek said she expects the laws to tighten in the future.
"Bullying that used to take place off line is much more
prevalent online. . . . Parents and educators are becoming
concerned," she said. "Because of that, we'll start to see
increased legislation at the state level."
Most local schools have imposed technical restrictions to their
computers. At Milton High, network administrator Robert Pattison
said, students are allowed to use sites like Hotmail and Yahoo
that provide e-mail access, since the school system does not
provide another means of online communication between students
But the district does use filtering software to comply with
federal government requirements to prevent access to
inappropriate websites, said technology director Michael
Goodless. The software would not automatically block a
legitimate blog site like Livejournal.com; however, since
Reddington's experience, school officials have made that site
inaccessible from the schools, he said.
Despite the precautions, Reddington still stings over her
"Anyone in the world could read this stuff," she said of the
cruel postings. "Anyone in the school could say, 'Wow, look,
that's Molly Reddington. Look at what kind of person she is.'
They could judge me by what other people wrote about me."
Parent Q&A: Child Must Understand That
Bullying Is Never OK
John Braccio, Lansing State Journal, July 12, 2005
QUESTION: I recently heard my 10-year-old daughter
talking about how mean she and her friends are to a girl that
rides the bus with them to school. They call her "four eyes"
because of her thick glasses and say she's "weird" and "ugly."
They seemed proud of themselves.
I went in and said I could not believe what they are doing. The
two girls were sent home, and I really gave it to my daughter.
She tried to defend herself, then quit and cried after I said
how horrible it was to do what she did.
I called the mothers of the other girls. They are friends of
mine and agreed completely with me. I called the home of the
girl who the children had made fun of and apologized to her
mother on my part and had my daughter apologize to her daughter.
The mother thanked me.
I feel I did the right thing. My husband said I overreacted and
should have let them work it out. What do you think?
ANSWER: I think you did the right thing in firmly letting
your daughter know her behavior was terrible and totally
unacceptable to you.
You need to explain to her why bullying is unacceptable. Try to
help her understand how bad she would feel if she were treated
the same way. You can do this in a firm and loving manner.
However, regarding the other child who was made fun of, it would
have been better to call the principal for some direction. In
today's world, it was a risk to call her without knowing what
reaction she might have. It would still be a good idea for you
to call the principal to explain what happened and make sure
this bullying does not happen again.
I disagree with your husband that you overreacted. While it is a
part of good parenting to not overinvolve ourselves in every
problem our children have, it does not relate to this situation.
Your daughter must learn that bullying is totally inappropriate.
Good parenting requires that it be extinguished immediately
before it ends up as an ingrained behavior.
Answered by John Braccio, Ph.D., director of Regional
Psychological Services in East Lansing.
Mass. AG Unveils Guidelines to Help Fight Bullying in
Kimberly Atkins, Boston Herald, June 27, 2005
Seeking to cut down on bullying and bigotry-based crimes in the
state's schools, Attorney General Tom Reilly has unveiled a plan
to give students, parents and teachers new tools and guidelines
to deal with schoolhouse harassment.
"It was pretty obvious school districts, teachers and
administrators needed some help with a consistent set of
policies and standards," Reilly said, adding that the plan would
help school districts set clear standards on classifying and
punishing such incidents.
For more information, contact the Massachusetts Attorney
General's Office by visiting
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