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Is one pudgy cartoon character to blame for the beating and bullying of junior high aged redheads in Calabasas, California? According to a Facebook page, November 20th was official "Kick a Ginger Day." For those who do not speak fluent South Park, that translates to: beat up a redhead. And, since kids take everything literally, it turned into just that at a California junior high.
According to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. John Benedict, there were several incidents throughout the day of physical and verbal attacks on four girls and three boys at A.E. Wright Middle School on November 20. Two 12 year old boys were arrested on charges of battery on school property. In addition to the real time bullying, a 13-year-old boy was booked for cyberbullying for allegedly making a threat by electronic communication via a Facebook invite.
As reported by numerous news outlets, the Facebook page that incited the painful and downright stupid actions drew on a 2005 South Park episode which attempted to parody racial prejudice. In that episode, the rabble-rousing Cartman describes people with red hair, freckles and pale complexions as evil and soulless. Somehow, the sarcasm didn't translate.
Increased awareness of cyberbullying has grown since the 2006 case involving the suicide of Megan Meier. In California, a new law, AB86, allows schools to suspend or expel students for bullying online. Despite this law, which took effect in January of this year, none of the students involved in the Calabasas "Kick a Ginger Day" attacks have been expelled. The punishments range from picking up school trash to five day suspensions. That should do the trick.
According to the L.A. Sheriff's department, dozens of children left messages on the Facebook page claiming to have carried out "ginger bashing" attacks on "National Kick a Ginger Day." Lesson learned: satire is lost on 13 year olds.