March 19, 2012— -- A Maryland teenager who identified herself only as Sarah was so frustrated with what she said was her high school's nonchalant attitude towards her reports of bullying that she went online and threatened suicide if the school didn't do something about it.
Arundel High School administrators are working this week to quell the firestorm that her note has started.
Her post on reddit asked, "The cyber bullying has gotten to the point where the school will not take any action unless I kill myself. reddit- how do I get my story out and make this stop?"
The message, posted last Wednesday, was from a second semester senior who described a world in which her bully, someone who she describes as well-known and liked, would say, "Go kill yourself. No one would care if you died. Why aren't you dead yet?"
The girl was given that message repeatedly online and in-person since the beginning of the school year, she wrote on reddit.
Sarah said in her note that she had contacted school officials several times, each time to no avail.
"As a teenager dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts, I could not laugh this off. I went straight to the office and demanded to see a vice principal. I was sobbing uncontrollably and visibly a danger to myself, but they just sat me down and had me fill out a form. I called my Dad, who cancelled his flight out-of-town to come be with me. He was furious that he was not called in a situation like this. We had a conference with the vice principal, and we were told there would be consequences if it happened again," the note said.
Anne Arundel County School District spokesman Bob Mosier would neither confirm nor deny whether or not Sarah had gone to officials before.
Administrators say that they were first notified of Sarah's note early Wednesday morning, around 1:30 a.m. after the rreddit note had gone viral. Mosier says that officials received a slew of emails notifying them of the incident.
"It was a bit of an early morning mystery," Mosier said. He said that he received emails from all across the country as well as from locations in Canada.
"When you were growing up, your circle of friends is right around the block. Now that includes Canada and Germany and Australia. It [the suicide note] certainly gets a very large audience very quickly," he said.
Mosier, along with other officials, sifted through the thousands of comments to garner clues on who Sarah may be. After hours of sleuthing, they determined that she attended Arundel High School. The next morning, police officers and administrators met with several possible girls until they found the right one.
Sarah retold her account of the incident in an edit to her original reddit post.
"I get off my bus this morning, and I see an unusual amount of cops around the school. I find the group who was going with me into the office, and we sat in guidance, waiting for the counselor to see us all (There were about six of us). Next thing I know, someone asks me if I'm Sarah. They had been looking for this "Sarah" all morning, and had even called down another girl by the same name. I get taken into one of the counselor's rooms, and a BOOK of these comments is placed in front of me. She tells me that she has gotten a ton of emails, and that the page has been forwarded to several teachers and the principal. I was shocked," she said.
Mosier said that disciplinary action was taken against her bully and that the school is still counseling Sarah.
Teen's Reddit Suicide Threat Over Cyber Bullying
Reports of teenagers being cyber-bullied and taking their angst to the internet are becoming ever more common in headlines.
Mosier said that part of the difficulty in handling situations like this comes from the ambiguity of social interaction.
"The larger issue here is of social media and the challenges that it presents are huge. Across the country kids are in school for 25 percent of their school day. If somebody threatens somebody at home on Facebook, is that a school issue directly?" Mosier asked.
Lawmakers in five states -- Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine and New York -- are trying to stiffen their cyberbullying legislation, making it, in some cases, a felony for anyone who engages in electronic harassment. Many states are already taking such measures. Indiana, for instance, has a proposed bill that would give districts more authority to address cyberbullying that takes place off of campus.