Thursday, November 22, 2007

Adults who bully children

I've seen teachers bully students, but that is considered okay by most people, particularly people who have power in schools. It's okay for adults in schools to tell children that they are "losers," "future criminals," etc.

But everyone seems to agree that this adult went too far:

Officials Respond to Young Girl's Suicide
ABC News
Nov. 22, 2007

In Dardenne Prairie, Mo., town officials have passed a measure making online harassment illegal.

It's a different kind of Megan's Law, made in response to the death of 13-year-old Megan Meier. She hanged herself last year after receiving a malicious message from a friend she met online.

Megan became friends with Josh Evans on the social networking site Josh claimed he was 16 years old and being home-schooled in a nearby town.

But one day, Josh sent a message to the young girl, saying she was "a bad person" and "everyone hates you." He said he didn't want to be friends with her any longer because he had heard she was not nice to her friends. Others in the online community joined in on the verbal abuse.

The cruelty and magnitude of the messages led Megan to hang herself in her bedroom closet on Oct. 16, 2006. Weeks later, her parents learned that Josh was not a real person. He was just an online identity created by a parent of a former friend of Megan's and her mother who lived down the street in their St. Louis suburb.

The two teenagers had argued, and the girl's mother wanted to find out whether Megan was saying negative things about her daughter.

"That's the biggest tragedy of the whole thing," Megan's father, Ron Meier, said. "An adult did it."

Her mother, Tina Meier, contends that young Megan's medical condition, well known to her former friends, speaks to the malicious intent behind the messaging. "They knew she had depression. They know she had ADD, and they knew the medication she was on and they've known us for years."

Their awareness of her sickness, Megan's heartbroken father says, made their actions "no different than somebody handing her a loaded gun."

The police, however, never charged the friend's mother with a crime and also kept the mother's identity confidential in order to protect her child.

At least a third of all teenagers say that they have been victims of cyberbullying at some point.

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