Anoka-Hennepin, police investigate cyber-bullying urging suicide - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Cyber-bullying urging Anoka-Hennepin students to commit suicide investigated

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The Anoka-Hennepin School District and police are investigating a group of middle school students who took a fight to Facebook and began a bout of cyber-bullying that crossed a scary line.

Officials say at least one of the bullies made a post on Facebook urging a group of girls to go kill themselves. Parents told FOX 9 News that's when the comments crossed the line, and students are suffering.

For middle school students, schoolyard name-calling may be nothing new -- but in social media circles, fights are getting nastier than ever.

Mikayla Wahlberg told FOX 9 News some of her friends are currently in counseling after being cyber-bullied.

"They were mad and wanted to know who it ws," she said. "They felt really bad."

According to police, the online bullying began after an argument between a group of girls from Blaine and another group from Coon Rapids that took place during a football game. From there, the fight escalated on Facebook until finally, one poster urged the girls from Coon Raids to commit suicide.

"Obviously, we take it seriously," said Capt. John Hattstrom. "Someone could harm themselves or someone else."

Investigators say the suicide posts came from a fake Facebook account, and they're still trying to track down exactly who is behind it.

"Parents should be aware that what they send is often electronically traceable," Hattstrom warned. "If it's offensive or threatening in any nature, basically, you're going to hear from the Police Department."

A staff member at Northdale Middle School learned of the bullying from students, and that's when the district called police.

"They quickly took action to talk to the students that were affected," said Kay Pavel, with the school district, adding that the students were referred to counseling services.

Suicide is an extremely sensitive issue for the district. In a span of two years, six students killed themselves -- and the district settled a lawsuit with a group of students who argued that school officials could have done more to protect those victims from bullies. Now, the district is legally required to be more proactive.

"Students should make sure to report it to an adult," Pavel urged. "A parent, a guardian or also staff member as well. We're always there to help them out."

The cyber bully's account is now closed, but the students say the threats can't simply be erased.

"I think the school should do something about it," Wahlberg told FOX 9 News. "I think the kids should make better choices as well."

Police say they recognize there is a fine line between free speech and harmful threats, but they say charges are possible in this case. If students are behind the anonymous bullying, they will also face punishment from the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

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