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Woodstock High student reports cyberbullying

Sep 18, 2017, 13:43:48
By Cherokee Tribune & Ledger News

A Woodstock student claims to be the victim of cyberbullying after sending an “insensitive” text message about a recent peer’s death, according to a report filed with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.

The mother of a 15-year-old Woodstock High School student told law enforcement her child is being harassed by fellow classmates via SnapChat, a social media mobile app that allows users to send pictures, write messages and post stories to followers.

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sgt. Marianne Kelley said Friday afternoon there was an active investigation in regard to the report and Woodstock High School administration was also dealing with any issues related to it internally.

Kelley said cyberbullying has become more prevalent not only in Cherokee County, but across the state and country.

“There are so many social media apps that kids use to bully others and then the messages will just disappear, making it extremely difficult for law enforcement to make a criminal case,” she said.

The woman said her child texted a friend Sept. 8 asking if they would like to hang out during the weekend, according to the report. The friend replied they were “too devastated” after the recent death of Madilyn Phillips, a 16-year-old Woodstock High student and cheerleader who was killed in a two-vehicle car accident on Ball Ground Highway the morning of Sept. 8.

Police report the student still told their friend they could meet, but the friend refused. The student then ended the conversation with the message, “Bye, bye then” followed by three emojis of a fire truck, a fire cracker and a car.

When the friend received the text message, they copied the conversation and posted it to SnapChat.

Although the mother admitted the text was “insensitive, the backlash (her child) has received from it has gotten way out of hand,” according to the police report.

Since the initial post of the conversation, the woman said there have been more than 80 “snaps” posted criticizing her child’s text message, including physically threatening statements from classmates.

The woman told police a friend had told her an Etowah High School student posted a three-minute “story” to SnapChat dedicated to the memory of Phillips. The story also includes a video clip of her child crying that was filmed when they were 5-years-old, the report states.

The woman said she has no idea how the video was obtained, but said it was being used to humiliate her child.

After the threatening posts were made, the woman said she met with Woodstock High Principal Mark Smith about the messages, according to the report.

She said Smith told her the student’s text message was inappropriate but the responding “bluster to it would not be tolerated.”

Cherokee County School District’s Chief Communications Officer Barbara Jacoby echoed Smith’s comments Friday, stating the school district “does not tolerate bullying of any kind, which is made clear to all students and parents at the start of every school year.” Students and their parents are required to sign that they have read and agree to follow the district’s student discipline code, she said.

When asked if any students had been disciplined for the bullying, Jacoby said the district could not violate students’ privacy by disclosing disciplinary action.

“As the allegations refer to off-campus incidents, the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office is appropriately investigating,” she said.

Jacoby said the safety and security of students is their top priority and would take appropriate steps if an individual’s safety was in question. She said schools need parents to help identify possible cases of cyberbullying.

“In most cases, our students are using personal devices for these communications and not CCSD-issued technology,” she said. “Please be aware of whom your child is interacting with and what social media platforms they use, and be willing to step in quickly if needed.  CCSD shares multiple resources and guidance on our website at http://cherokeek12.net/online-safety/ so parents can talk with their children about cyberbullying and online safety.”

Threats against the student continued into the next day; the woman told police she found two large shattered “jars of pickle slices” in her driveway Sept. 9 and “is afraid this may be the start of something more coming from her (child’s) incensed classmates.”

The woman’s residence was placed on an extra patrol list, according to Kelley.