Lewiston-Auburn students rally against online bullies

AUBURN — For 16-year-old Michael Kelley of Auburn, the simple act of standing beside Lewiston-Auburn's busiest stretch of road and holding a sign is an act of defiance.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Ashley Pelletier, left, and Lorna Knight rally against bullying on Longley Memorial Bridge between Lewiston and Auburn on Thursday. Both are juniors at Edward Little High School in Auburn. To watch a video of the rally, go to sunjournal.com/nobullrally. 

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Michael Kelley, left, and Keirsten Walder rally against bullying on Longley Memorial Bridge between Lewiston and Auburn on Thursday. Kelley is a sophomore at Edward Little High School. Walder is a freshman at Lewiston High School. Go to sunjournal.com/nobullrally to watch a video.

"I've been bullied," Kelley said, standing at the center of Longley Memorial Bridge. "I know for a fact it really hurts. This gives me a chance to fight back."

His sign read: "#NoBull," a reference to a new Twitter and Facebook identity that has taken aim at online bullying. But "NoBull's" first target — a Twitter account called "@LewistonBitches" — has been the talk of Edward Little and Lewiston high schools.

Since last Tuesday, when the account began posting venomous comments about Lewiston cheerleaders, the site has logged hundreds of comments from dozens of online identities. It has spawned copycat sites for Edward Little and Leavitt Area High School.

"Everybody is just raving mad about it," said Ashley Pelletier, a 17-year-old Edward Little junior who protested with Kelley on Thursday afternoon.

The worst online comments have included racist and sexist remarks. Most are profane. Some posts referred to the "'hoe' of the day." Some ranted about the sexual orientation of individuals while others angrily told one site host to "go kill yourself."

"It's sickening," said Samantha Laverdure, a 17-year-old senior at Edward Little. "It makes me sad to know that some people think like that."

It has caught the attention of school officials and local police, who have been searching for the anonymous creator of the online community.

"Most of our students are really angry about this," said Gus LeBlanc, principal of Lewiston High School. "They don't support it. They see it for what it is."

LeBlanc has twice called Twitter to request that the material be removed. Steve Galway, an assistant principal at Edward Little, has also called Twitter. They've received no response.

"I'm not sure they really care that much," LeBlanc said of Twitter's administrators.

School technical staffs have been searching for the culprit, but without Twitter's help, the creators of the vicious sites will stay anonymous, Galway said.

At Edward Little, all social media are blocked to anyone who logs into the school's Wi-Fi signal. At Lewiston, the school's computers come with tracking software that exposes the identity of the user and where they roamed on the Internet.

But students at both schools are allowed to bring cellphones to school and many can access Facebook and Twitter. And of course, many students have computers at their homes, too.

"It may not even be somebody in school now," Galway said.

Leavitt Area High School Principal Eben Shaw said that he, too, wants to know who is writing the posts. However, given his school's smaller site and fewer posts, he believes fewer Leavitt students are involved.

"I don't believe it's reached the same place as the Lewiston and EL ones, probably because we were the last one and people were looking out for it," he said.

Since last week, "@auburnangels" popped up as a nice response to the other sites. And in Poland, perhaps in an effort to seize control of the name, someone started "Polandbitches," but kept its conversation kind.

Meanwhile, the "#NoBull" participation is growing.

Samuel Chamberlain, an Edward Little senior who helped create the site, said he hopes the anti-bullying account will make an impact.

"(Online bullying is) becoming more and more awful," he said.

Police are waiting for an identity and someone to summons.

"We're monitoring the Twitter feeds," said Deputy Chief Jason Moen of the Auburn Police Department. "If we get somebody who wants to come forward and press charges as a victim of harassment or criminal threatening or terrorizing, should it rise to that level, we would definitely take the appropriate action."

Chamberlain believes the creator of all this hatred deserves prosecution.

"He or she needs to appear in a courtroom in front of a judge," he said.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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Comments

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Cyber bullying is just

Cyber bullying is just another great example of the outrageous social sewer the web has become.
Schoolyard bullying is one thing; cyber bullying shouldn't even exist. As Jason suggests, it's drama. IGNORE the idiots.

Jason Theriault's picture

Just read the twitter feed.

Seriously Sun Journal, what is wrong with you?
I just read some of @LewistonBitches tweets. This isn't online bulling, this is plain old high school drama. This is the equivalent of writing something on the wall of the bathroom.

It's one thing when bullying violates Maine Title 17-A, §506-A.
http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/17-A/title17-Asec506-A.html

It's another when someone is trolling twitter.

Jason Theriault's picture

BTW

I just want you to know, those who disagree with me and clicked "disagree", I consider that online bullying. I am forever tormented by seeing those disagrees rack up. It makes me sad.
#NOBULL

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The parrot sez you need to

The parrot sez you need to refocus. You're paying way too much attention to those agrees and disagrees. Have you noticed the absence of the all time agree/disagree scores on our profile pages since the new format went into effect? I guess the Pirate had such a high level of agrees that it became embarassing to continue the count.
Any idea what happened to 'you know who'?

Jason Theriault's picture

It's all good

I thought the scores made it over. Kinda sad, I liked knowing my score.

Anyway, the whole point that I was trying to make is that there is a difference between a concerted attack on someone, and someone just spouting off on the internet.

I mean, where does it stop?

If this LewistonBitches person is bullying, whats to say me disagreeing with the #NOBULL people isn't bullying. What's to say anything isn't bullying. Will they be satisfied when everything has been dulled down to vanilla pudding, completely non-offensive and bland?

Nope, I'm sorry, but I will not stand for this. Censorship has many forms and usually get's its foot in the door under the guise of good intentions. And that's what this is.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Everyone is a bully until

Everyone is a bully until they get punched in the face.

Jason Theriault's picture

Guess what?

The world is full of a-holes. The sooner you learn to adapt, the better.

1. STOP FOLLOWING THEM. They are internet trolls. You NEVER FEED THE TROLLS. Example - this story. I would have never know about it had the paper not published a story.

2.There is a super huge difference between "Cheerleading isn't a sport" and targeting a person and humiliating them to the point they kill themselves. Yes, there is alot of stuff in the middle. But this, at least from the tweets published here, seems like the disney jr version of cuber bullying.

Hell, when I was a kid, I got picked on alot.The sooner you learn to deal, the better.

 's picture

i don't think that the news

i don't think that the news paper would print the the really rancid stuff since that would violate their policy. what's here is the disney version because it is printable.

 's picture

i don't think that the news

i don't think that the news paper would print the the really rancid stuff since that would violate their policy. what's here is the disney version because it is printable.

Andrew Jones's picture

Agreed. If these clowns

Agreed. If these clowns didn't have an audience, they'd quickly get bored and stop doing it.
But they got published in the newspaper, way to feed the trolls!

On a side note; does anyone think it is scary that school administrators think that social media outlets like Twitter should just hand over personal information upon request, just because someone does not like the messages being broadcast? I do.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

The solution isn't as simple

The solution isn't as simple as some seem to think. It is not for the victims of the bullying to change.....it is time the "No Bullying Policy" is enforced and the state needs to have laws with teeth in them so law enforcement can actually do something when bullying is reported. Posts are commenting to not use the social sites, to stay away from them. Be real, you are obviously part of an older generation. Today's generations use social sites for many things other than bullying. It is also a great way to get information about a variety of things. Businesses have social media sites, colleges and universities have social media sites. It is time the issue is treated for what it is....a problem that needs laws with teeth that needs to be addressed.

Jeff Johnson's picture

#BLOCKED!

Every social networking site allows you to block certain people or groups. Just one click, and the bully's message doesn't reach its audience.
I agree with you that the victims shouldn't have to change their behavior, but if the bullies have no audience, there's no issue.
Whether we like it or not, the tweeter has every right to his/her opinion. "Cheerleading isn't a sport." "Susie Homewrecker is an (expletive)". While being totally classless, hateful, and misguided even racist and sexist comments are opinion. The KKK and Neo-Nazis are allowed to spew their filth in lawful assemblies. I think the only unlawful comments are specific threats. (I'm going to stab you the next time I see you) as opposed to (You need to die a fiery death)

So yes... the tweeter is probably a classless mook looking to get a reaction, but the 'victims' in this situation need not be victims at all. Social Media bullying is exponentially easier to avoid than actual face-to-face bullying.

 's picture

Re: Cyber Bullying

Note to the victims of cyber bullying; the solution is rather simple; don't use social networking sites, and the problem is solved. There's a lot more to life than posting comments on Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc.

Jeff Johnson's picture

#dontfollowit

Call me a foolish old man... but don't you have to 'Follow' a Twitter account to read what's being posted?

However tasteless and assenine the tweets are, however hurtful, however prejudicial... they're not affecting anyone who isn't paying attention to them.

How many people turn off the radio when Rush comes on? Flip the channel when the evangelists start preaching? Throw bricks at the TV when Obama gives away more of our money? Cross the street away from the soap box preacher?

Here's a simple solution. Don't read/follow the tweets. With no audience, the author will go away. Just like Al Franken.

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