Police intervene in Evart bullying situation

EVART — A 12-year-old Evart boy who is accused of bullying a female classmate could be charged with stalking.

Michigan State Police troopers from the Reed City post visited to the boy’s house on Friday after the girl’s mother filed a complaint about statements she and other children heard the boy make about the girl at school and on the social networking site Facebook.

“After one of the nasty comments he made about what he would do to her, her mother said, ‘This is getting out of hand,’” said Community Service Trooper Travis House.

Both children attend Evart Middle School, where school officials told police they had used all their resources to deal with the issue, but weren’t able to resolve it.

Police interviewed the boy, who denied making the threatening comments. He was warned that further unwanted contacts would result in his arrest. The incident remains open pending prosecutor review.

Evart Middle School Principal Susan Lenahan declined to comment on this specific situation, but said problems that arise from students communicating online don’t always surface at school even though she often hears students reference things they’ve read on Facebook.

“It’s a different culture that these kids are in. The way they communicate is different and the effect it has on themselves and each other is different than used to be,” Lenahan said. “Sometimes that comes into school and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Evart Middle School doesn’t have specific guidelines for when parents should contact police about bullying situations, Lenahan said, but faculty advises parents to monitor what their children are doing online as closely as they would monitor any of their children’s off-line activities.

“My advice to parents is always the same: If you feel like (your children) are going on Facebook and being harassed, don’t let them go there. If I send my kid to the playground everyday and he gets harassed, I don’t let him go there,” she said. “You have control over that.”

Bullying can cross a line into territory that could be considered harassment or stalking. Two or more unwanted contacts that frighten, harass or intimidate another person can be considered criminal stalking, even if these acts take place in school, House said. These contacts can be made in person, by phone, by e-mail or on a social networking websites.

“That behavior has always been a problem (in schools) but with the bullying stuff, it’s a big deal,” House said. “Stalking is one of those laws we can use to take some action in a situation that might be considered bullying.”