The two boys were suspended for five days without a hearing and charged with second-degree harassment, which carries a sentence of up to one year in jail and a ,000 fine.Days later, Westchester District Attorney Jeanne Piro announced that, while some of the material on the site was “offensive and abhorrent,” it did not meet the legal definition of harassment and criminal charges against the two boys would be dropped. (The boys — through their lawyer — declined to give interviews.) Perhaps the most extreme case of message-board malignancy this spring occurred in Dallas.
S.] kills you”), and urged her boyfriend, Chris, to break up with her (“I will have a huge celebration and hook up Chris with some hookers so that he knows what a non-fat cow looks like.”) The Lake Highlands message board, which can still be viewed online, is exceptional not only for the viciousness of the attacks on Newby (which included an entire page of the words “Die bitch queen!
” repeated hundreds of times) but also because the violence online escalated into the offline world.
Newby’s car was egged, “MOO BITCH” was scrawled in shaving cream on the sidewalk in front of her house and, on the evening of June 7, a bottle filled with acid was thrown at her front door.
The first indication that the seemingly obscure practice of cyber-bullying might have reached outrageous proportions was an item in the New Yorker titled “The New Bathroom Wall.” As much as one can discern from the understated style of the Talk of the Town section, the incident in question was not so much a harrowing news event as it was an amusing anecdote about teenage life or, at worst, a parable about how affluent Manhattan parents have access to just about anyone they need, including the district attorney.
Regardless of the gentility of the prose, however, the details packed a wallop.
It seems that students in the Manhattan interschool system — a consortium that includes the kind of private schools that parents train their children from age 3 to attend — had decided to pool their vast collective brainpower to find out who was the biggest “ho” in their ranks.
To do so, they enlisted the services of Freevote.com, a free Web site that lets users create a virtual voting booth.
The Interschool Ho voting booth listed and ranked 150 students before parents and teachers got word of it and had it shut down — first by e-mailing the webmaster of Freevote.com, and when that didn’t work, by having the Brooklyn district attorney place a call to to give it a nudge.
No charges were filed in this case; no students were suspended or expelled, and the intervention of the D. seems to have been more of a warning shot than any indication of an intention to press charges. A.’s office told the New Yorker, “It’s very clear: There’s no accounting for taste, but the site is protected by the First Amendment Free Speech clause.” A few miles away, the students at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, N.
Y., a wealthy Westchester County suburb, were not so lucky.
When word got around school in late May that a Web site run by two senior boys, and accessible by password to about 14 other boys, contained personal information on some 40 girls — including family history, phone numbers, addresses and, most troubling, sexual experience — the principal, Kathy Mason, called the New Castle Police Department.