Facebook bullying catches attention of Clovis police, school officials

Postings on a new Facebook page have prompted Clovis police and Clovis Municipal Schools officials to launch an investigation into online bullying.

Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders says no threats of violence have been made on the page, but his officers are looking into whether the posts violate New Mexico's harassment statutes.

He says the page is being used to belittle and harass students at Clovis High School. More than 1,600 students are enrolled at the school.

Police are conducting interviews with students and parents who felt victimized, and consider the account holder's conduct to be harassment and possibly contributing to the delinquency of minors charges. Harassment charges carry a maximum punishment of 1 year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine, while delinquency charges are punishable by up to 18 months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

Clovis Superintendent Terry Myers would not disclose details about the account in an attempt to avoid giving it credibility, but said he considered the posts, "a disruption of the educational environment."

At least 10 victims have come forward, and police suspect there are more.

Sanders says his department and school officials want to put an end to the bullying to ensure public safety.

In recent years, the incidence of cyberbullying has increase and some cases in other states have resulted in subsequent suicide.

While Myers said many of the items would blow over without much concern, he doesn't want students unnecessarily suffering emotional distress from the account.

"We'll prosecute if necessary," Myers said. "Our main objective is to make sure folks understand it's inappropriate and we're not going to tolerate it."

Facebook is one of numerous sites blocked through the school's firewalls, but cellular phones connect to the Internet through separate data networks — so Myers couldn't say one way or another if posts were made from school grounds.

"It is not occurring on district equipment, (but) we don't have those failsafes on personal technology."

Fast facts

Under New Mexico Administrative Code Title 6.12.7.7, bullying is defined as, "any repeated and pervasive written, verbal or electronic expression, physical act or gesture, or a pattern thereof, that is intended to cause distress upon one or more students in the school, on school grounds, in school vehicles, at a designated bus stop, or at school activities or sanctioned events. Bullying includes, but is not limited to, hazing, harassment, intimidation or menacing acts of a student which may, but need not be based on the student's race, color, sex, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation."

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