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Missouri ninth-grader allegedly bullied girl over Internet

Thursday, October 15, 2009 | 1:21 p.m. CDT

TROY, Mo. — A ninth-grade eastern Missouri girl was arrested on suspicion of bullying another girl through a Web site, school district officials and police said Wednesday. She also faces school disciplinary measures.

The girl is a student at Troy Buchanan High School in Lincoln County, about 60 miles north of St. Louis. District spokeswoman April Huddleston would not say how the girl was disciplined, citing privacy laws. But Huddleston said the discipline could include expulsion.

Huddleston said the victim went to school authorities, who alerted the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department. The girl was arrested Oct. 8, said Sheriff's Lt. Andy Binder, although he would not say whether the girl had been released.

Binder also would not discuss if charges would be filed, but said the girl could be charged with harassment.

The Lincoln County prosecutor did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Binder said the girl created a Web site with a name that included the other girl's name and explicit language. He did not have specific details on what the site said, but it included photos, comments and a poll about the other girl. It has since been taken down.

"It was a very aggressive Web site when it comes to harassment," Binder said.

Missouri legislators passed a cyberbullying law after the 2006 suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier of St. Charles County. Meier killed herself after an Internet hoax that drew international attention.

Binder said that law would not apply in this case because both the suspect and the victim are juveniles. He did not know the suspect's specific age. The new law prohibits adults from cyber harassment of children.

Under the harassment law that took effect in August 2008, a cyberbullying offense can become a felony if a victim is 17 or younger and the suspect 21 or older.

The first person charged under the new law was 40-year-old Elizabeth Thrasher, also of St. Charles County. She was accused in August of posting photos and personal information about a 17-year-old girl on the "Casual Encounters" Section of Craigslist after an Internet argument. The posting included the teen's picture, e-mail address and cell phone number and suggested the girl was seeking a sexual encounter.

In the Meier case, an adult neighbor, Lori Drew, her daughter and a friend were linked to a MySpace page concocted to appear to be that of a teenage boy. "Josh" initially flirted with Megan but then made hurtful comments shortly before she hanged herself.

A jury in California, where MySpace has its servers, found Drew guilty of three federal misdemeanors, but a judge overturned the verdicts and acquitted her.

Huddleston said Megan's mother, Tina Meier, spoke out against bullying during an assembly last year at the middle school where the suspect attended at the time.

An "Anti-Bullying Week" is planned for Troy's ninth graders later this month. Huddleston said the week was planned before the allegations in the case surfaced.


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