Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More on Teen Suicide

Methinks there's more than one kind of online harassment and more people who think they've jumped to this poor family's defense could be in trouble. Earlier. At any rate, here's the latest on this tragedy.

Town may criminalize online harassment

By Greg Toppo
Wed Nov 21

The tragedy of Megan Meier will take another twist Wednesday night when officials in her home town vote on whether to make online harassment a local crime.

Meier is the 13-year-old suburban St. Louis girl who met a cute 16-year-old named Josh Evans last year on the social networking site MySpace. They became close, but suddenly he turned on her, calling her names, saying she was "a bad person and everybody hates you." Others joined the harassment - the barrage culminated in Megan's Oct. 16, 2006, suicide, just short of her 14th birthday.

Weeks later, Megan's grieving parents learned that the boy didn't exist - he'd been fabricated by a neighbor, the mother of one of Megan's former friends. The girls had had a falling out, police say, and she wanted to know what Megan was saying about her daughter.

Local police and the FBI investigated, but more than a year later, no criminal charges have been filed. Tonight, the Dardenne Prairie Board of Aldermen will vote on whether to make Internet harassment a crime in its jurisdiction.

But since a local newspaper columnist broke the story of Megan's death last week, the case has grabbed the attention of the blogosphere: The paper didn't identify the neighbor, and police say she committed no crime, but bloggers who see it differently have outed and humiliated the family online.

The St. Charles Journal decided not to identify the neighbor in the absence of criminal charges or a civil complaint - even though her name is in a police report on a related incident. Columnis Steve Pokin said he wanted to protect her daughter. "Kids don't get to choose their parents," he said.

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