FRANKLIN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey high school student has been arrested for allegedly encouraging a young student to take her own life.
Police said a female student at Franklin Township Elementary School faced harassment on the internet last week after re-posting a message about suicide prevention, sources said, on Snapchat. She received responses encouraging suicide from a male student at nearby Walkill Valley High School. One allegedly included a picture of another man pointing a gun at himself, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Tuesday.
“He made some really disparaging remarks,” Franklin Borough Police Det. Lt. Nevin Mattesich said.
The young victim reported it to school officials on Friday. Then on Monday night, the alleged cyber bully — a juvenile — was arrested in the presence of his parents. He was charged him with one count of cyber harassment, a fourth-degree crime. People in the community had a mixed reaction to the arrest.
“That’s terrible. As a former student from Walkill, it’s sad to hear about,” resident Jake Deanda said.
“I think it’s a little extreme,” parent Anthony Cavallo said. “Kids make mistakes. It’s the only way we learn in life.”
“I’m glad they arrest him. If you have mentality to do this as a teenager, what are you gonna do when you’re adult?” grandparent Krystyna Pac added.
If found guilty, the law says he would be forced to take a class or training program on the dangers of cyber harassment.
A few years ago, Rockaway student Mallory Grossman, who was just 12 years old, ended her life after being cyber bullied. “Mallory’s Army,” formed in her memory to educate parents and students, posted Tuesday on Facebook, “It’s just a slap in the wrist” and “cyber harassment should be classified as a #hatecrime.”
Police said the victim in this case did the right thing and recommended parents encourage their children not to respond to cyber bullying. Instead, screenshot the threatening messages so they can be shared with police if need be.
The high school student was released back to his parents, pending a first appearance in Sussex County Superior Court.
The elementary school said it already held two meetings with parents this year on the dangers of cyber bullying.
What To Do If Your Child Is A Victim Of Cyber-Bullying
According to the nonprofit organization ConnectSafely.org, there are several urgent steps parents can share with their kids if they discover or suspect they are being harassed online.
1. Know that it’s not your fault. Learn to detect when an argument crossing the line and becomes cruelty.
2. Don’t respond or retaliate. Bullies often want to bait their targets into giving them a reaction. If humor doesn’t disarm or distract a bully, don’t fall for retaliating and becoming a bully yourself.
3. Save the evidence. Logs, screenshots and saved transcripts can be used as evidence in case things continue or get worse.
4. Tell the person to stop. If you can, make it clear the treatment should not continue.
5. Reach out for help – especially if the behavior’s really getting to you. Targets of bullies deserve the support of friends, relatives and trusted adults.
6. Use available tech tools. Check what features your social media services and apps have to report or block harassing messages or users.
7. Protect your accounts. Never share a password with anyone and always password-protect your phone so no one can impersonate you online.
8. If someone you know is being bullied, take action. Doing nothing can empower a bully who is aiming at a target’s loss of dignity or control over a social situation. Show support to those who are being targeted and urge them to cut off the harassment.
For more tips on cyberbullying, see www.connectsafely.org/tips-to-help-stop-cyberbullying.
We’ll have more on this developing story on the CBS2 News at 5 p.m.