Two D-49 students cited in cyber-bullying case

KRISTINA IODICE Updated: March 1, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: March 1, 2013

Two 18-year-old students from Falcon School District 49 were cited on suspicion of harassment this week over a Facebook page that allegedly targeted other students.

Summonses were issued for Alexander Natale and Kyle Pate, who each attend different D-49 schools, according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

Natale was served a summons on Thursday and Pate on Friday morning.

Both faces charges of harassment, which is a misdemeanor, said Lt. Jeff Kramer, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

The case stemmed from parent complaints over a Facebook page called “Falcon Problems.” At least one parent believed the page focused on current Falcon High School students. The page was no longer available on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the page had more than 160 likes. Some comments were from students telling the page owners to stop posting about friends.

D-49 officials and parents contacted the Sheriff’s Office.

“It was maybe up for a day before we knew about it,” said D-49 Spokeswoman Stephanie Wurtz. “It’s bullying and the district has a no-tolerance policy against bullying.”

Sheriff’s officials began investigating the accusations of bullying on Tuesday. Posts and comments about students were deemed threatening, according to a release from the sheriff’s office. They worked with D-49 officials to identify the two suspects.

It’s not the first cyber-bullying case for the Sheriff’s Office, he said. However, there are no hard numbers of such cases because they are classified under harassment according to state statute, he said.

Reports are taken seriously by the Sheriff’s Office because cyber-bullying can lead to physical altercations and often extends beyond the intended victims, sheriff’s officials said.

Wurtz said that parents need to be aware of what kids can do or may be doing online.

Facebook doesn’t share any detailed statistics, such as how many pages are deleted over cyber-bullying complaints, a spokeswoman said in an email. There are many websites, including StopCyberbullying.org and www.wiredsafety.org, that offer help in prevention and response for kids and families.

Parents say the problem isn’t limited to one school, or one district.

It also is hard to stop, although school officials and others say kids are increasingly stepping forward to report issues.

A new Facebook page called “Falcon Solutions” was started on Thursday and posts were positive instead of negative.

Concert

School efforts to combat bullying are ongoing. Falcon School District 49 will host  a concert Aug. 17 at Security Service Field.

“The ultimate goal of this event is to stop bullying before it starts,” said concert organizer Mindy Quinn of D-49. “Stand Up.  Speak Out” is designed to bring children and families together to raise awareness, empower and educate the Colorado Springs community.

Tickets for “Stand Up. Speak Out.” go on sale in April. More information is available at www.d49.org.

Contact Kristina Iodice: 636-0162 Twitter @GazetteKristina Facebook Kristina Iodice

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