Natick police have received multiple reports of cyber-bullying targeting students, school officials say
Natick school administrators are urging parents to monitor their children's computer activity after police have received several reports recently of local students cyber-bullying and impersonating other kids on social media sites.
Natick Superintendent Peter Sanchioni and Natick Police Chief James Hicks emailed a letter to parents this morning warning them of the "new and potentially dangerous trend," noting that students post photos of and information about others that "are sometimes inflammatory and derogatory."
The Natick leaders also noted in the letter that students "are also being harassed and bullied through social media websites."
"Like any community, we've had a few incidents of this nature, but they have mostly been reported to the police and haven’t been interrupting school," Sanchioni said in a telephone interview today.
"We’re trying to be proactive here in the early phase," Sanchioni said of the e-mailed letter.
In the letter, administrators urged parents to monitor or delete their children's social media sites, and provided parents direct links to report any bullying via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine.
"History has taught us that this type of behavior can result in tragedies and, therefore, it should not be taken lightly," administrators said in the letter.
Any students caught bullying via social media will be punished accordingly by school officials, and in some cases could even be prosecuted by police, administrators said in the email.
Sanchioni said today that parents of the victimized kids, which range from middle to high school ages, have filed police reports from the end of summer to this fall semester about the incidents.
"This is a significant issue – it’s a byproduct of a digital generation," Sanchioni said by phone. "We're striving to be proactive and get on it as quick as possible."
Sanchioni deferred all other questions to police. Police representatives did not immediately return phone calls for comment.
School bullying has also been seen in nearby areas recently: Concord-Carlisle school district officials are facing a $2 million lawsuit after a former student, Isabella “Belle” Hankey, alleged that she was mercilessly bullied for a year and a half while administrators ignored her pleas for help. School officials have denied the accusations.
Hankey’s suit is one of the first to be brought under the Massachusetts Anti-Bullying Law, which went into effect in May 2010 after several high-profile bullying-related suicides in the state. The law aims to strengthen protections against bullying.
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org