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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Facebook deletes page defaming Spokane teens

Rumor has it one girl cheats on her boyfriend with older boys and a boy texts naked pictures of himself to every girl he meets.

These are the tamer examples of what was posted on a Facebook page called “Spokane Whores Exposed” last week, prompting an investigation by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. The page, which included revealing photos of teens, many of whom were minors, was promptly reported to Facebook and deleted thanks to a community effort. But the scars of cyberbullying remain for more than 30 victims in the Spokane region whose names and photos were uploaded for all to see.

One victim from Shadle Park High School said she wanted to speak out about the damage such bullying causes.

“I honestly want to get my word out there,” said 18-year-old Shay Armstrong, who found pictures of herself and her friends on the page.

“They had (my) personal life on there that no one should have known about,” Armstrong said. “It was very hurtful. Why would you say that about someone? It didn’t really make any sense.”

Armstrong said she went to school the next day and faced prying questions from peers.

“I didn’t want to talk about it,” she said, telling classmates: “Leave me alone – I just want to get over it.”

Though sexual assault detectives with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the page, no one has come forward to law enforcement to report abuse, said Deputy Craig Chamberlin.

Another victim’s mother described the page as slanderous: “She was humiliated – she’s an honor roll student and she’s a beautiful girl, and a lot of people are, in my eyes, jealous of her, and I don’t think that’s an excuse to pick on her. It’s hard enough to fit in with people when your face is plastered on a site that has the word ‘whore’ in it.”

She took her daughter out of school that Friday in hopes the four-day weekend would cool off the unwanted attention.

“I think every parent needs to monitor their kids and their Facebook page. They would be outraged if this was their kid or daughter,” she said.

The victims come from all over the region, with 12 confirmed as Spokane Public Schools students, said district spokeswoman Terren Roloff. The principals of those students’ schools were contacted so counselors could provide support.

This isn’t the first time some have seen such online bullying in Spokane.

“We’ve seen this before as I’ve worked with kids,” said Phil High-Edward, assistant principal for discipline and attendance at Shadle Park High School. Of the most recent example, he said, “This Facebook page that’s been dedicated to mean-spirited behavior – it hasn’t been that large, it hasn’t caught on like wildfire.”

Still, the page gathered more than 1,000 “likes” during the five hours it was online on Nov. 7 before it was deleted by Facebook. A Facebook spokeswoman said the social networking company deals with a community of more than a billion users, but the company can assemble its forces quickly.

Julia Jean Brown, vice chair of Spokane’s Chase Youth Commission, said she rallied her Miss America network to spread the word and click “report this page” for its abusive nature.

“We were all just panicked and mortified that it was up there in the first place,” said Brown, a Gonzaga Prep junior who collected documentation of the page’s damage through screenshots to help notify Spokane schools that their students were being targeted.

“I didn’t know anyone on that page, but I couldn’t imagine if one of my friends popped up – how humiliating it would be,” she said. “I didn’t want people to see it, but I just wanted it down.”

Brown hopes to begin a conversation about cyberbullying using the Chase Youth Commission, saying the page is a testament to why such an effort is needed.

Bullying online “makes it easier to pick on them and makes it easier to be more persistent with it because you can’t see … that person’s reaction,” Brown said. “It takes empathy completely out of the equation.”

Armstrong, the Shadle Park victim, removed her Facebook page. She went without it for a week and felt great, she said.

For others facing the terror of cyberbullying, Armstrong recommends the same action, and that kids talk to their parents.

“Maybe deleting your Facebook would be the best thing for awhile – just to get away from the negativity,” she said.