What can you do about internet and cell phone harassment?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by MidwestMom, Oct 6, 2008.

  1. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    There is a girl who, for complicated reasons that are more about herself than my daughter, has enlisted a group of girls to harass our daughter. We are going to school to take care of it there because we are seriously worried that our daughter will go ballistic and start fighting with one of the girls. She never has before, but she has been harassed so badly that she has told us "enough is enough." She's a very strong girl too. I'm also worried about her mental health. We t hought the problem would work itself out, but it is escalating and involving more and more girls.
    Last night one of the girls was silly enough to send a long, long hateful IM and we printed it out. Another girl left a long, long hateful cell message and some text messages, which we also kept. We called the police (there are two in our town...lol). He is very friendly with our hub and his daughter is one of the kids who was involved, however she is basically a good kid who got caught up in the pack mentality. But the text messages and hateful phoneall came from her cell phone, although she wasn't the one who was talking. Suffice to say, she won't have a cell phone for a long time...lol. The problem is Sara, the force behind all this hate (and what I described is the tip of the iceberg). The cop was very angry at the Ringleader and was going to talk to both the girl and her parents. Her parents, who are both alcoholics, are fueling their daughter on. This morning hub and I are going to school. It is such a teeny school that they can't afford to lose one student and we may bluff that they take action on this "girl aggression" (as it is now called) or put her in another school (Wisconsin has school choice). It's pure BS bluff, but they really freak at the thought of losing any students. And we are serious that they better talk to Sara and treat her as if she had hit my daughter--it's just as hurtful, if not worse. My daughter doesn't give a rat's if they are friends again, in fact she doesn't want her as a friend. She wants her to stop spreading lies about her at school and stop talking about her. This actually has worked at our school with other kids because the school is so small that they can keep an eye on the kids without much trouble and they can hear if this garbage is going down. My daughter hates us to interfere, however s he was so distraught she told us, "Yes, do anything you can." I am afraid of what will happen if we don't stop it. She is adopted and there is a history of mood disorders and drug abuse on her birthfather's side (VERY heavy). So far she has been a strong young woman. It is alarming to see her falling apart. It must be VERY bad if she feels she needs our help. All you moms out there, any thoughts? I am alarmed that girls can be THIS vicious that they can get a normally strong young woman to roll up into fetal position and just sob and say "I can't take it." Are we wrong to go to school? On the other hand, should we pull her out if it doesn't improve? Good heavens, if my daughter was involved in treating somebody else this way, she'd be grounded until next year and she'd have to apologize face-to-face and her pride be damned. We just don't allow it.
    We are keeping the messages to show the principal so he doesn't think we are exaggerating. Any words of wisdom?
  2. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Go for it. She gave you permission. And frankly, even if she didn't, the state she was in should justify your taking action.

    Pulling her out wouldn't stop the problems, if the bullies live in the area. A correspondence classmate of difficult child 3's was transferred to correspondence because of problems exactly like this that he was getting, although in his case they were following it up by physically assaulting him. With the transfer the physical assaults stopped but the text messages continued. In their case the school did nothing because one of the girls (yes, girls in this case too) was the child of a school board member and they wouldn't accept that it was their daughter, even when faced with the phone records and copies of the text messages.

    What was happening in that case - at first the boy didn't want his mother to interfere. But tis only made the bullies bolder. When the mother went to the school to complain, the bullies did get upset about it and use it as an "excuse" to try to up the ante, but eventually with the boy's mother upping the ante by getting the police involved (as you should, you did the right thing there) a lot of the bullies stopped. Some of the parents got the message and curbed their kids, some of the kids decided they'd gone too far. Those bullies remaining kept it up, however.

    The boy is safe because he stays home and stays indoors. His sister was getting persecuted, last time I spoke to them, but the mother was continuing the fight. None of it was as bad as it had first been, however.

    Each event has to be reported, even if it's apparently trivial. The police don't have to go out to see them every time but they do need evidence of each incident so they can keep track of the problem.

    If this happens and nobody makes a complaint, the kids never get the message that this is a crime. They continue to behave as if it's all in fun, it's long-distance, no blows are exchanged so therefore it's not bullying. If they don't know and aren't stopped, they never learn.

    Sometimes they never learn anyway.

    But if you do nothing, it also sends a message not only to the bully that this is acceptable, but it sends a message to your daughter that she deserves this, that she is going to have to get used to abuse because tat is what life has in store for her. By not accepting this but taking action, you show your daughter that she deserves to feel safe, she has power and can fight back appropriately, and also shows her that she is worth protecting and worth fighting for. Also, as she watches you handle this appropriately she learns the skills for herself. She will need to know how to manage these sort of problems later in her life (when she is a mother, maybe) and you will have shown her the way.

    Also, seeing you step up and take action reduces her stress, in the same way that a rat in a cage getting repeated electric shocks becomes less stressed if it has something to do, such as pressing a lever. And maybe if you can help her stress reduce even a little bit, she will feel strong enough to handle things better on her level as well.

  3. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Make copies of everything before the school meeting in case you feel the need to allow the school to have a copy.

    I don't know how much the school can do about the internet and cell phone unless it is actually done on school grounds. However, it is good for them to know how far this has gone and that these kids need to be separated even if it means the removal from school of one of them.

    Did you file an official complaint with the police or just talk to the officer? I would file official charges against Sara. This is VERY serious! Call the police again and say you want to file criminal charges against this girl. I wouldn't wait to see how the school handles this, enough damage has been done that even if it does stop today, she needs to be held accountable. Otherwise, she will be on to her next victim.
  4. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    First of all, well done that you're stepping in! This is bullying to the utmost degree. Kudos to you and husband for doing the right thing.

    Speaking to the PO friend was a wonderful first step. The fact that his daughter was involved and he was willing to recognize that and act on it, speaks to his integrity as a human being.

    I would absolutely speak to the school, no question. I would also tell them that if it continues, you plan on seeking an order of protection against each and every girl involved. Advise them that this will include in person as well as internet, texting and phone conversations. If they're worried about losing even one student, imagine how they'd feel if they thought that they'd loose the entire group because they're not allowed within 150 feet of your daughter.

    I think it's brilliant to make sure that this is being handled. There was a young girl not too long ago that commited suicide over this type of harrassment, and it too was a result of a parent "egging on" the abuse. Let them know if you get ANY form of proof that the parents are aware of the situation, they, as well as the school, will be subject to criminal as well as civil liability.

    You go MWM! Let us know how the meeting turns out!

    Boy I feel like kicking some teenage butt right now!

  5. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    I'm glad you went to the police about it and I'd definitely get the police involved. I can't believe this all started because Sara lied about getting parental permission and has escalated to this degree. It sounds like you'll probably be able to stop most of the girls simply by talking to the parents. Sara, of course, won't stop and I'm not so sure she'll stop regardless of what the school does. There is something seriously off in her.

    I agree that having any of the girls go to a new school won't stop a thing. They still live in the same town and they'll still hang out together after school. Really sounds like it's time for a school assembly to have a discussion about bullying, both physical and mental.

    I'm sorry it has gone this far. I can only imagine how bad it is for your daughter to be willing to let you get involved considering how adamant she was that you wouldn't. Good luck!
  6. bran155

    bran155 Guest

    I agree with you, this is just as, if not more harmful to your daughter than hitting her physically. Smart to save all of the evidence. I am glad you contacted the police. I think people tend to take this sort of thing way too lightly. I have heard people say things like: "they are just kids" or "it's a rite of passage". B*LL SH*T!!!! Parents, teachers and all adults need to start taking this bullying a lot more seriously as it can seriously damage the emotional well being of the one being bullied. Especially if the child already had issues!!! They should not get away with this. Even though the parents are alcoholics I hope they respond responsibly. I hate the "not my kid" attitude, that drives me nuts.

    I was bullied as a kid and my mom did not really understand how horrific it was for me at school. It was torture. I played sick for weeks at a time to avoid school. I too got harassing and threatening phone calls, it was utter hell for me. I will never forget those feelings. Depending on my day, they still come up from time to time - 25 years later.

    "Walk away, ignore it", DOES NOT work, so I hope the school responds harshly to these girls. They need consequences and some sort of mediation. Sounds like the cop was really understanding, especially considering the fact that one of the girls is his daughter. That's a big plus.

    Good luck. Let us know what happens. :)
  7. DazedandConfused

    DazedandConfused Active Member

    Oh boy, do I ever know what this is like. It's unspeakably horrible. Yes, save, save, save...! Print, Print, print.

    (It also shows how ignorant some girls are. They can't deny, it's all right there in print)

    If the school has a written internet policy, they can take action. It doesn't necessarily have to happen ON SCHOOL grounds. It can also depend on the administrator. When Daughter had the MySpace incident, the VP refused to take any action other than talk to the students.

    My argument was that the whole thing was designed to humiliate Daughter AT SCHOOL. If it weren't for the school connection, none of it would have never happened. So, the school needed to intervene.

    Still she refused.

    I should have gone to the district office and the principal, but Daughter didn't want me to make more of a big deal. Plus, the girls, and boy, retaliated when I did go to the school. I went to the boy's parents who were a couple of idiots. I also spoke and showed the doctored pictures to one of the girl's parents. They were shocked, but they worked so much they were having a hard time getting a rein on their daughter. The Ringleader was very sneaky. I tried calling and she would hang up and also erase any messages I left for her mother. I know she had a lot of issues at home, but you know what, I DON'T CARE.

    Then, the ringleader and another girl started threatening Daughter at school. So, Daughter got a school restraining order on both girls. If they even so much as said a word, or contacted Daughter, the police was going to be called.

    After most of it had passed, I talked to some administrators at other schools who expressed SHOCK when I told them that pretty much nothing was done. All said they would have immediately suspended.all involved The written district policy allows them to. Then, only a few months later the VP that I dealt with was FIRED. I was so relieved she got the boot.

    Hugs to you and difficult child. It's really awful to go through. If anything push for the school to have an internet harassment policy.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Thanks, guys. This is what we did so far and there is an update.

    The school can't do anything about internet stuff and cell phone messages, but the cops can so we called the cops last night. His own daughter was a part of it, and he hit the roof (to be honest, his daughter is really a nice girll who got pulled into this pack mentality and I think she and my daughter will be friends again). But we filed a report and he was going to go over to Sara's house to talk to her and her parents (he was NOT happy with them). He is also going to talk to the third girl, who doesn't even go to the school, but she was the fool who left the message. She hangs at the school a lot. She is his daughter's friend, has a big mouth, and thinks she's wonderful because she is rich and very pretty (although quite the bully). So we already filed a report, but it' snot a criminal complaint. Yet. It be if it happens again. Now I just heard from school.
    Sara and Nicole had a mediation and both of them admitted to things they had done to each other. Although Sara had been there when the phone call had been made, she felt really bad that it happened and both girls agreed to try to mend their friendship and to stay away from this toxic kid from another school For right now, I'm cautiously optimistic.
    I wonder why some parents refuse to get involved with things get this out of hand. As I type this, my own fingers are shaking for my daughter. I don't feel confident yet. If I can hardly take it, how can my kid? I'm glad that schools now address this "mean girl" syndrome. When I went to school, you were expected to put up with it, no matter how bad it got.
  9. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I am so sorry that this has become thiis vicious. Call your cell phone provider and tell them you need to have the call saved for X period of time, or ask if they can download it to a CD and send it to you. Typically cells only save messages for 2 weeks, so you may LOSE the evidence if you don't call the provider or ask the police how to get a copy of it.

    The school BETTER get a handle on this girl. in my opinion this is WORSE than beating her. The nasty words can repeat in your head over and over, and a beating lasts only as long as it lasts, or as long as the bruises are there. The words can repeat for YEARS (Once in a great while when I am really down I can still hear the nuns and other students taunting me, calling me a freak, telling me I won't amount to anything - and yes, the nuns were my teachers. All of this STOPPED before7th grade, so it really does have a lasting effect.)

    Push the school and the police until they do something, even if you have to press charges for verbal assault.

    Hugs to your whole family.

  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I think an order of protection, or restraining order is a lovely idea. And be sure to enforce it if you get one. Even if it is just for Sara and for the PO's daus' friend.

    Sending hugs, and be SURE to call your cell phone provider to find out how to get a copy of the voice message.
  11. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I'd take it all down to the police department, remind them of the girl who hanged herself, and ask them to press harassment charges against the bunch of them. I would take a copy of the police report to the school and make sure that they know that if any of this is happening on school grounds that you will not only sue them, you will ask that they be included in the charges as accomplices.
  12. Pandora

    Pandora Member

    I am glad the police are taking an interest. I would change her phone number, you can also block calls and texts if they come from blocked numbers. I believe you can do this on Internet as well. Do not give out phone numbers or Email addresses once you've changed them.
  13. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    The girl who actually did the calling did it on another girl's phone. Basically, that girl is a good kid, but the one who made the call is (hate to call a child this) a real jerk. I'm going to play the call for the police dept. in her town because I don't know how to save it. Then they will have a record in case she causes more grief. I am trying to get the Superintendent to ban this "mean girl" from going to any of our school events. She doesn't go to this school and all she does is cause trouble. I don't want her there. My daughter, and everyone's daughters, deserve to be able to go to homecoming without this girl coming to the game and talking smack about the kids who are there because they care about the game. To be honest, if I knew this little girl's last name, I would have called her parents. But I don't and my daughter won't tell me.
    My daughter and Sara have sort of made up. They did really good mediation at the school and my daughter came home happy.
  14. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    MWM, you have definitely done the right thing.

    Bran said, "I was bullied as a kid and my mom did not really understand how horrific it was for me at school. It was torture. I played sick for weeks at a time to avoid school."

    I couldn't even play sick. My mother sent me to school regardless; I had to be running a high fever to get out of school; even then I often still had to go. I also got the "walk away and ignore them" talk, but again, you can't walk away when the gang of them have you surrounded and they're laying into you with fence palings. What REALLY upset me was the teachers on playground duty -I know they could see what was going on, but they refused to intervene or get involved at all. I was told that I had to go to the teacher and complain, they required the victim to at least do this much before they would interfere. Again, not easy when the bullies are between you and the teacher. I never saw a teacher standing there watching, but I often saw them standing side on, looking out of the corner of their eye and trying to look as if they hadn't noticed.

    A couple of times I managed to get into the school library where I was sure I could be safe. But appealing to the school librarian to allow me to stay I there to keep away from the girls who were beating me up - sorry, no dice. She tossed me out. I was happy to sit and read a book, but because there were other girls following me and making noise, she tossed me out too because I was attracting the bullies.

    We lived too far away from the school for my mother to visit. I had to handle it myself. So I went to the headmistress and reported it - only then did anything get done. Some girls were suspended. The beatings increased because I had "dobbed". Although I was scared and had been warned that if I dobbed again, I'd get beaten even more, I told the principal again. Because some girls were still on suspension, a fresh lot of bullies got suspended - a longer session because they had already been warned. When the first lot of suspended girls came back and the beatings continued, I dobbed again. By now I had no friends - any kids who weren't actually beating me up were avoiding me because I was a target and they could be targetted just by association. I felt I had no support from staff other than the principal and she was a very busy person, I was beginning to feel she was getting very impatient with me. Looking back, I don't recall my mother really understanding what I was going through. She had me in counselling because my self-esteem was rock-bottom and she couldn't understand why I felt so bad about myself. I remember telling her when a beating dislocated my kneecap, thinking that perhaps I should see a doctor even though I had put it back in myself; but I thought the problem through. Yes, every time I dobbed, I got more beatings and for a while they were worse. But they would then taper off again because every time I got beaten I would dob, and the principal would suspend a few more. Surely I would eventually run out of bullies at this rate? Or if not, the principal would ring my mother and ask her to send me to another school for my safety.

    So I dobbed. Again and again. It was only about the fourth time I reported yet another incident, that the bullies began to get expelled. About that time it began to change - less physical, but the verbal stuff was ramping up. And back in those days, "sticks and stones" was the principle. Verbal stuff was not considered an issue. I had previously alerted a teacher to graffiti scrawled into the timber of my desk that stated, "I hate Marg M..." and all the teacher was concerned about was the vandalism to the desk.

    Once the ringleaders were expelled the bullying did ease a bit. Then I got a brainwave, helped by my mother - maybe she felt as powerless as I had felt. I brought a large number of home-grown mandarins to school and shared them with the bullies. I walked up to them and offered them some fresh fruit, taking one myself at the same time so they knew I hadn't done anything to sabotage them. I stayed friendly, I did my best to not act scared, they asked me why I was being nice to them and I said it was better than being afraid. Something about turning the other cheek.

    I'm not suggesting you tell your daughter to turn the other cheek. It was what I did, under those particular circumstances, to hose down the last few flames of what was stubbornly refusing to die.

    What I am trying to say - you always should stand up to them. Even if it makes it worse to begin with - you stand up to them calmly. Legally. And you keep following through. Once you set your foot to that path, you continue. You can't change your mind and back out or it will be worse than doing nothing and allowing it to continue.

    Standing up to bullies, or doing ANYTHING to try to stop it, greatly reduces the stress caused by the bullying. Doing nothing will allow the stress to keep increasing. It also makes you feel more powerless.

    You intervened. You showed your daughter she doesn't deserve this and that there are GOOD ways to deal with this and to make it stop. That is a lesson that will stay with her for the rest of her life. YOu have turned this bullying experience from a bad one to a positive learning opportunity. She will come out of this more empowered than she was before the bullying started. Thanks to you.