Followup on principal suing students over forged Myspace profiles
(note: go to the link of the article, which has links within it for some of the things mentioned)
For high school principal Eric Trosch, the abuse just keeps coming. We reported earlier this week how Trosch, a Pennsylvania school administrator, became the target of fake MySpace profiles back in 2005, profiles that accused the man of everything from having sex with his students to rolling doobies in his spare time. The whole fiasco ended with one of the students suing Trosch in federal court after being placed in an alternative education program, and Trosch filing his own lawsuit this week against the students responsible. But the profiles keep on coming—a new one was recently erected in Trosch's name on LinkedIn.
Ars spoke with Jayne Hitchcock, a cybercrime expert and anti-harassment advocate who has been involved in the case since being contacted by the Trosch family last year. Hitchcock calls the fake profiles way more than a mere prank. "I consider what they did to be way over the top," she says. "Being called 'child molester' and worse is not what I call a parody."
The new profile mocks Trosch for the very lawsuits he filed to stop this sort of thing. "It is completely acceptable for the masses to mock, ridicule, humiliate and satirize my name and likeness because I choose to sue highschool students for playing a boyish prank," says the profile. "By my own actions, my reputation has been sullied. From this day forth, whenever someone searches my name on the internet, they will know that I file lawsuits against the same minors which I have been entrusted to supervise because I could not control their behavior, which as co-principal is my primary responsibility." It then goes on to describe how Trosch enjoys "brutalizing women" and "keeping a keg of beer behind my desk for the sweet sweet high school girls." Now that's humor!
Though we faulted Trosch for his official response to the original profiles (computer classes and student research projects at the high school were disrupted while he attempted to shut down access to MySpace), poor handling of the situation in no way makes these kinds of posts less reprehensible. The fact that such profiles continue to appear more 15 months after the original incident also shows a certain viciousness of spirit among those responsible. Hitchcock, who also runs an organization designed to halt online abuse, believes that the failure lays with the parents of the kids responsible.
"Most parents are not being parents anymore and basically let their kids run amok and do not know what their children are doing online," she tells Ars. "Parents have to put their foot down, make rules and enforce them and show their children that they will be punished for any wrongs they commit."
According to data gathered by her organization in 2006 (PDF), the most likely targets of online harassment are white single women between the ages of 18-30, and the harasser is often an ex-lover (47 percent) or online acquaintance (25 percent). This makes Trosch's own case something of an outlier. Hitchcock urged Trosch to fight the harassment and not simply to let it drop, arguing that harassers need to be shown that their actions won't go unpunished or simply be dismissed as a "prank."
"Students need to be punished for doing things like this before it gets worse," Hitchcock says. "In the UK, a teacher's pants were pulled down while being videotaped and that was posted on YouTube. This is getting ridiculous and the more students get away with it, the worse they'll do. I wouldn't be surprised to hear or read that a teacher or principal was raped, stabbed or shot on video and that is posted. It's only a matter of time."