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Last week, Debbie Piscitella was shopping with her teenage daughter when the girl pointed out a boy who had been tormenting her on Facebook.
The 14-year-old high school freshman had allegedly posted a number of nasty things about Piscitella's eighth-grader, including that she was “a fat f---ing whale” who “didn’t deserve to live because she is so nasty that he wouldn’t even rape her.”
She approached the boy and asked him to stop, but he responded that he wasn't going to stop because he didn't have to. That's when she choked him. She shouldn't have done it of course, but I can't blame her for losing it. As wrong as this kid's actions may have been, Piscitella knew he was right about one thing: he can put whatever he wants on Facebook with no real ramifications.
Bullying and teasing that happen online put parents in a unique situation these days, because they can actually verify what's going on with their own eyes. Seeing the actual harassment go down is surely a very different thing than hearing about it secondhand. But to officials and police, a jumble of vicious slights in cyberspace is not comparable to a slap or punch in the face, and a lot less actionable.
Plus, Facebook commentary doesn't typically come with negative consequences of any kind. Whatever the school's policy on bullying might be, I'm sure this girl's parents thought their daughter's bully was in the free and clear to continue making whatever remarks he wanted via social media—especially after the father got involved online and the boy just kept ragging on his daughter TO HIS (VIRTUAL) FACE. OMG.
After complaining about the taunts to the principal and getting no help, Piscitella felt powerless. It's a sad and shocking moment when parents realize there is little, if any, recourse for victims of online assaults. When I put myself in her shoes and imagine the frustration of not only seeing the Facebook comments, and then confronting the bully and hearing him say he wasn't going to stop his online tirade because he didn't have to? Well, I can see how she snapped.
In the wake of the drama, Piscitella, who was arrested on a charge of child abuse and later released from jail on $5,000 bail, has offered advice to other parents who might find themselves in a similar situation:
I want people to, obviously, try to go through the proper channels. I want you to monitor your children and what your children are doing on Facebook because, obviously, if you look on the Facebook of the children in question, the things that are on there, as a parent, I would shut it down immediately.
Here's a Good Morning America segment with Debbie Piscitella and her daughter:
Do you empathize with Debbie Piscitella at all?
Image via MSNBC