Cyberbully of teen cancer survivor was best friend

A Boston teen who lost a leg to cancer discovers that the person who sent her extremely threatening texts is her best friend at school. Her parents are now contemplating legal action.

How should you punish a cyberbully?

Are there guidelines to follow? Are there gradations of discipline that, say, 13-year-olds should fear?

I ask because of the story of Justine Willliams. Williams, an eighth-grader from North Andover, Mass., survived cancer when she was 10. She survived, but she lost a leg.

A couple of months ago, according to CBS Boston, for reasons she couldn't understand, Willliams began receiving texts that threatened, among other things, that her house would be bombed and her animals would be killed. Threats of rape also reportedly featured in some of the texts.

After an investigation, a 13-year-old girl reportedly confessed to sending more than 90 nasty texts. That girl was Williams' best friend at school.

She reportedly used to talk to Williams via Skype, looking to see Williams' reaction as she received the texts, and she tried to mask her phone number by using a Web site to send the texts.

While the school appears to have reacted quickly in ensuring that the two now-former best friends be kept apart, the local DA decided on punishment that Williams' father believes is not severe enough.

The girl, whose name was not revealed, was ordered to undergo 10 counseling sessions and 20 hours of community service and to write a letter of apology.

"If you or I would make these kinds of threats to somebody, we'd be in jail," Williams' father told CBS Boston.

Though the DA's office reportedly worked with Williams' mother to decide on a punishment, Williams' father now says he is considering civil action. It's unclear though what punishment such a civil action might demand.

What, indeed, would be the correct punishment for a middle-schooler who had behaved this way? Once the damage is done, what might make such a teen feel, at the very least, genuine remorse? What could possibly make Williams herself feel that justice had at least played a righteous role?

In the U.K., an 18-year-old was jailed for posting death threats on Facebook.

In the U.S., a 4Chan member, aged 20, got 45 days in jail for sending intimate images of the victim to school officials.

But in this case, it may be that the law hasn't quite caught up with the damage that the youngest of people can wreak now that so many technologies are in their grasp.

 

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