Not to dissimilar to yesterday’s story about the tweeted picture of 2 African American males in an Algebra class with a racial pejorative printed under it;
we now learn of a series of cyber bullying attacks on students at a North Haledon High School where police have to get involved.

Which makes me wonder, in this “new reality” we all live in, what with anti-bullying guidelines and the ubiquity of bullying in general, do police really have to get involved in instances that used to be considered just name-calling?

North Haledon police are trying to find out who launched a cyberbullying attack on several Manchester Regional High School students last month using the photo sharing network Instagram.

Someone created a page on Instagram called “MRHS_FAKES” and posted photos of a half-dozen students with vicious personal remarks. Several girls were labeled “lesbians” and called “fat” or “ugly”; one girl was urged to kill herself, according the parents of some of the victims.

The attack came in a Jan. 13 online “chat” and targeted several students, prompting five families to complain to police.

In New Jersey, hiding behind a computer screen or cellphone to launch a personal attack against others violates the state’s Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying policy that each school district, including Manchester Regional, adopted last year.
The parents, who spoke on the condition that their names not be used to protect the identity of their children, said the attacks were not limited to girls. One boy, who is autistic, also was the target of epithets, they said.

The attacks hit their mark when many of the intended victims and their friends read them online — which prompted parents of five victims to go to police.
The postings were so deeply personal that many parents suspect that they could only be the work of another Manchester Regional student. One of the postings exposed a girl as having previously cut herself — and then urged her to go all the way and kill herself.

Detective Dave Parenta confirmed the investigation on Tuesday and said he’s working with the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office. Parenta said although the Instagram page has been taken down, he has screen shots of the offending comments and there is no doubt in his mind that a crime was committed.

Parenta said police are trying to determine who created the page and attacked the students and from what computer. To do that, the Prosecutor’s Office must first obtain a subpoena from the Superior Court in Passaic County and deliver it to Facebook, which owns Instagram, and the Internet service provider for the MRHS_FAKES page.

“There’s always an electronic trail,” Parenta said. The HIB policy applies to communications made both on and off school grounds. It applies to any offensive “gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication” that is perceived as motivated by characteristics such as “race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical, or sensory disability.”

One parent whose child was attacked said the incident was an opportunity to have an open discussion about bullying and its consequences.

“I think this is a real teachable moment,” said the parent. “The kids really need to understand the tools they are using, and how vicious they can be.”

Much as I hate the phrase "teachable moment"...the question is applicable: do police really need to be involved in “electronic name calling?”

For all practical purposes, they have more important things to attend to.

But in our new cyber reality where not just kids, but adults can hide behind a keyboard and throw stones at one another; the demands are such that police need to be brought in so that instances of cyber bullying don’t rise to the level of some innocent kid committing suicide.

Never thought I’d say that, but that’s the way it has to be from now on!