Rhode Island teen accused of cyberbullying classmate
A 15 year old sophomore at Smithfield High School in Rhode Island created a phony Facebook page in November, 2010. Her target was a freshman girl who was born with a deformed foot. The profile was titled “Halfafoot” and included the freshman’s last name, birthdate and a picture of a severed, bloody foot.
When friends saw the page, they told her to take it down. She refused, telling them she wanted to see the responses she would get from her invite requests. Instead, she’s been referred to Family Court for cyberstalking, which is also known as cyberbullying or cyber harassment, and using false information in creating the fake profile.
Rhode Island law* prohibits electronic communication for the sole purpose of harassing someone. A first offense is a misdemeanor where offenders face up to a $500 fine and one year in prison. A second offense is a felony, punishable by up to two years in prison, $6000 in fines or both.
Legislative efforts are underway to assist law enforcement in these cases. This incident took six search warrants to track the computer addresses. Three computers were seized from the sophomore student’s home. Proposed legislation in 2011 may grant someone other than a judge authority to issue administrative warrants in these cases (possible a police official).
*Rhode Island Statute 16-21-21 (2008)