Warrentons police chief says officers have found more witnesses to the controversial assault incident at Warrenton High School who tell a different story to the one reported this week.
Chief Matt Workman said that earlier claims that there was more than one attacker involved and that the victim, sophomore Haley Bode, was beaten unconscious are not matching other witness statements.
The case is still under investigation. Initial reports indicated other students posted online comments apparently commending the assault.
Warrenton school leaders are reviewing what happened.
The part thats important isnt the incident Friday, said Rod Heyen, principal at Warrenton High School. Its what happens from now on.
Heyen said his district has well-established policies on cyber or other types of bullying, and that the high school is safe for children to attend.
The number of girls involved likely would affect any charges if the case went to court.
Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said fourth-degree assault is a misdemeanor. For it to become third-degree assault, a felony, it must involve more than one attacker.
He added that there must be serious injury, a specific legal term, before a district attorney becomes involved. As of now, the altercation might not be so serious.
Laws which might address the online postings changed in the past few years.
The Oregon Legislature amended its bullying laws in 2007 with House Bill 2637, which adds a definition of cyberbullying to existing law. It defines cyberbulling as the use of any electronic communication device to harass, intimidate or bully. It must physically harm a student or their property, place them in reasonable fear of physical harm or create a hostile educational environment.
HB?2637 also encourages all school districts to establish policies, definitions and ways of responding to reports of cyber-bullying.
Principals at Astoria and Seaside high schools revealed that cyber-bullying is an issue that they try to deal with before it escalates into something more serious.
Its a very difficult situation, because when something goes viral, it could end up affecting 50 kids, said Larry Lockett, principal at Astoria. We try to shut it down as quickly as possible.
He and Sheila Roley, principal at Seaside, both said they immediately start gathering information and bring in all the involved parties for interviews. That includes giving full due process to the accused.
Weve had parents bring in texts or email, said Roley. We always respond by meeting with parents. The impact will result on whether its in our realm of authority.
After interviewing and gathering other information, schools compare the incidents to their district's policies on bullying.
Lockett and Roley both said they have a range of consequences they can invoke, including loss of computer privileges, short- and long-term suspension and expulsion. Consequences beyond those often involve the police.
If someone punches, well call law enforcement, said Roley. Theyll ask if its defusable. If its one-sided theyre more likely to respond.
Chief Workman said there arent many bullying cases in Warrenton that meet the requirements of turning into a crime; most are simply inappropriate contact between students, whether that be teasing, "sexting" or any manner of inappropriate communication, often covered by free speech laws.
Its one thing to say something to someone, he said. Its another thing to bombard them with copious amounts of texts. It usually falls short of threats.
Workman said that for bullying to become a crime, the victim of bullying has to feel they are in imminent danger. He added that its difficult to ascertain that information, because often a student takes a threat of violence defensively or is too scared to report it.
He and school administrators focus on educating students on what bullying is. Students and parents often sign agreements to use technology appropriately at the school.
I love technology, said Workman, but it can also be the bane of law enforcement.