Durham police launch Facebook bullying investigation

May 12, 2011 3:43:36 PM PDT
Latoya Lugo says what began as a playground fight spilled over onto the internet.

"Last year my son, he had, an incident at Neal Middle School with a student. He punched my son in the face and after that, he's been getting harassing emails, and comments on his pictures on Facebook," she said.

The problem grew so bad that the boy was forced to transfer to another school, but the Facebook insults kept coming.

The last straw for Lugo was a death threat.

"I actually called the police this morning and made a report to them and they said they were gonna send someone from the juvenile department to talk to me," she said.

Durham police tell us they're taking the threat seriously and have launched an investigation into what's fast-becoming a dangerous trend.

William Lassiter with the North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice says he's seeing more and more cases of online bullying.

"In our state, it's actually grown a lot more than it is across the country," he offered.

Recent studies show 35 percent of students in North Carolina say they're the target of cyber bullying. Shockingly, the youngest offenders start as early as third grade. That's why Lassiter says it's important for parents to do some investigating of their own.

"You want to make sure you find out who the kid is. You want to make sure it is a kid," he explained. "Sometimes it's an adult."

Not only is cyber bullying hurtful, it's criminal - felony even for a juvenile.

"Some law enforcement agencies may tell you they don't have the technology or the ability to do anything about. Ask them to go to the SBI. They have an Internet Safety Division," said Lassiter.

"It upsets me a lot because some parents need to take control of their kids and let them know bullying is not appropriate," said Hugo.

You can also call the internet provider or the social networking site to report the person.

Two years ago, NC lawmakers made cyber-bullying a felony for both juveniles and adults. Experts recommend checking your child's email and social networking sites. Keep asking them if they're the target of bullying.

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