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Facebook turned teen girls’ rivalry into school brawl

Tracy Polk along with her daughter Jenise Williams 16 who is sophomore Chicago Academy for Advanced Technology High School was

Tracy Polk, along with her daughter Jenise Williams, 16, who is a sophomore at Chicago Academy for Advanced Technology High School was beaten with locks that were stuffed into socks over a Twitter and Facebook comment. Wednesday, May 2, 2012. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 4, 2012 11:49AM

Teenage girls have always gotten into squabbles over teenage boys.

But today, the explosive mixture of hormones and immaturity is being supplanted by nasty exchanges on Facebook and Twitter.

All it takes is a provocative “status” or an in-your-face “tweet” and it’s on.

This dynamic seems to be behind an ongoing conflict involving groups of sophomores and junior females at the Chicago Academy of Advance Technology (CAT) on the near West Side.

Last Thursday, Jenise L. Williams, 16, a sophomore, was attacked in the school’s hallway by two or three juniors wielding locks in their hands. Apparently the attack was a response to a back-and-forth dispute on Facebook.

“They were on there calling my daughter a ho,” said Tracy Polk, the victim’s mother.

“The girls beat her in the head with locks.”

Matt Hancock, the school’s executive director, would not discuss details of the incident, but confirmed that all of the students involved, including Williams, have been disciplined according to the Chicago Public Schools Code of Conduct.

“We issued suspensions and one referral for expulsion. We take issues of violence and bullying extremely seriously,” he said.

It was the second time Jenise has been suspended for fighting this semester. In the first incident, she claims the other girl hit her first. This time, Jenise said she was ambushed in the hallway.

“It was my first day back and I’m fixing to go to my classroom, and one of the girls walked up to my best friend and hit her. I turned around and one of the other girls hit me with a lock, and while we are fighting, someone hit me with a lock on the other side of my head,” she said.

“So after we had got done fighting, and I went to the hospital to get checked out, I went on Twitter to find out what was going on. CAT was trending,” she said.

“They were saying that the sophomores just beat up the juniors and that ‘y’all getting it tomorrow.”

Prior to the lock incident, Jenise had put a comment about a male classmate on her Facebook page.

“The girls who jumped on me commented on my status saying I was a ho. There were about 40 tweets about me saying I got beat up by a freshman,” she said.

All of this may seem like utter nonsense, but when you are a teenager, sticks and stones really do break your bones. Social media often acts like the crowd egging on young combatants.

But stopping this kind of cyber bullying is difficult because parents and teachers usually aren’t aware of what’s going on until after the fact.

“The first step is to identify it and bring the students together,” Hancock said.

“If you can resolve it with the students, that is the best option. When the cyber bullying is a specific threat, police action can be taken. But rarely is there a clear cut case of one student bullying another. It is back and forth, low level squabbling, and a group of students speaking in code words; that becomes an issue of conflict resolution, not an issue of cyber bullying.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t see any warning signs and didn’t have a heads-up that tensions were high. It was a surprise to us,” Hancock said.

Meanwhile, Jenise isn’t as concerned about fighting as she is about being out of school.

“I only fight if I have to, but they want to pick on me like I am supposed to be lame or something,” she said.

“I was bringing all my grades up. I was encouraged and thinking I could bring up the rest of my grades so my mama could be impressed. But after one fight, it was another. I know I have straight Fs now, being at home. It’s not fun.”

Youths has its perils, and being shortsighted is one of them. While some teens can see the big picture, too many are mired in the inconsequential things that seem important today.

Unfortunately, Facebook and Twitter have put a new stumbling block in the path of these vulnerable teens.

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