N. TX school district investigating cyberbullying attacks

By Diana Zoga

A school district is trying to figure out who's posting the names and photos of some of its female students online, along with captions that call the girls sexually explicit names.

It's all anonymous, and it's worried one mother enough to call FOX 4 to find out what can be done about it.

The mom suspects that other classmates are behind the anonymous online posts to single out certain seventh grade girls, calling them sluts, using their full names and publishing them for the world to see.

"My daughter cries every night before bed. It's ridiculous," said the mother, who did not want to show her face to FOX 4 on camera. "She shouldn't have to do that."

The posts have been through Instagram.

"One of her cousins had come over and told us about it being on there," said the mom. "We looked it up and it was on there with her pictures. And all these kids keep on going with calling her a slut and putting her whole full name in it and her pictures."

That was Monday night. The next day, the account disappeared, but it was replaced by a second, equally offensive one.

"The next day, they made new one, a number two of it with new pictures and saying something else, you know, rude," said the mom.

She says she knows of at least two other accounts targeting girls at Mineral Wells Junior High School in Palo Pinto County.

FOX 4 did speak to a second mom, who reports that the same thing happened to her daughter this week.

The school resource officer started an investigation and plans to subpoena Instagram to find out who's behind the accounts.

But those accounts could have been made under a phony name, which would require more legal action to find the people responsible.

"We can certainly do the route of going the subpoena and going out of state and getting the record, but, you know, if I'm a parent, and I am, I want information right now and I want it to stop," said Dallas ISD Police Chief Craig Miller.

Miller is not involved in the Mineral Wells investigation, but he knows the difficulty that districts face in stopping cyber bullying.

Even if parents have an idea of who may be picking on their kid, the school may not be able to prove it without an admission from the students involved.

"My experience in this is that someone's doing that isn't doing that on their own," said Miller. "They're doing that and they're telling their friends. And so other people know about it, so it's those people we need to get to come forward."

Miller says that parents need to talk to their kids about policing themselves, calling out any bullying that they see.

Some of that did happen with these Instagram posts. Friends and family members of the girls who were targeted got online and told the posters to cut it out.

Family members say they've also tried reporting the accounts to Instagram to have the accounts taken down.

One of the moms is interested in pursuing criminal charges – either harassment or bullying charges.

Mineral Wells police say that they'll try to narrow the field of suspects and get that information to the school, hoping that it can be handled at the school level.

The district says that even if these posts may have been made at home and not during school hours, it said in a statement to FOX 4 that it is getting involved because the posts have been disruptive to the learning environment at school.

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