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Online ‘burn books’ sparking controversy

Officials feel largely helpless to prevent this latest form of cyber bullying

Online burn books are Twitter accounts where an anonymous person posts multiple insulting Tweets.

You have a big nose. Your butt is huge. You’re ugly. You smell.

These insults—and much worse—are popping up on the internet in “burn book” accounts that are specific to area schools and to particular students there. The burn books are creating a stir in local communities across the country.

Inspired by the 2004 Lindsay Lohan movie “Mean Girls,” burn books are Twitter accounts where an anonymous person posts multiple Tweets that insult, taunt, and call out classmates by name on the social media messaging network.

Manheim Township, Warwick, Manheim Central, Donegal, Garden Spot, Hempfield, and Ephrata are among the Pennsylvania school districts that have been targeted by burn book accounts.

Concerned parents and students have alerted local police departments about the burn books, which also make graphic accusations about students’, or even teachers’, sexual habits, drinking, or drug use, in addition to the put-downs.

The accounts specialize in casual cruelty, with Manheim Central’s signing off recently with this flippant tweet: “I’m done for tonight, don’t cry yourself to sleep people.”

Some local police say the accounts are more than just insulting. They are taking steps to obtain account holders’ names and will consider prosecution on charges such as harassment or harassment by communication.

“This absolutely is cyber bullying, this is what it’s about,” said Lititz police Detective John Schofield, who said his department fielded five phone calls on Aug. 15 alerting police to the Warwick burn book. “It could rise to a criminal charge.”

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