PORT AUX BASQUES, N.L. — Police in western Newfoundland are investigating a possible case of cyberbullying at a junior high school, weeks after another student drew attention to a similar anonymous online poll ranking girls based on their looks.
The RCMP in Port aux Basques said Thursday that they’re looking into the posting of a list of the “ugliest girls” in Grade 9 at St. James Elementary.
Sgt. Terry Alexander said they received a call about the posting on Dec. 18 and have been interviewing people in hopes of tracing the origin of the post.
“We’re still trying to determine who posted it on Facebook,” he said. “We have no idea.”
They say the poll was posted on Facebook on Dec. 17 and Alexander thought it involved about a half dozen girls.
“Obviously these girls saw it,” he said.
Lynelle Cantwell of Holy Trinity High in Torbay, N.L., made national headlines earlier this month after a similar list of the “ugliest girls” in the Grade 12 was posted to the social media site ask.fm.
She gained national support after she took to Facebook to denounce the poll and its creators in a post that has been shared thousands of times.
“I’m sorry that your life is so miserable that you have to try to bring others down,” she said in her response. “To the 12 people that voted for me to bring me to 4th place, I’m sorry for you too. I’m sorry that you don’t get to know me as a person.”
Police are investigating the case, but legal experts have said a criminal conviction is unlikely.
Dalhousie University law professor Wayne MacKay said current federal cyberbullying laws only cover online sharing of intimate images, sometimes referred to as “revenge porn.”
Michael Lacy, a criminal defence lawyer and vice-president of the Criminal Lawyers Association of Ontario, agreed and said the Criminal Code hasn’t yet caught up to the technological age.
Both said while this might not fit the criminal definition of cyberbullying, police could consider charges for criminal harassment, though that’s a charge that generally requires the victim to fear for their livelihood.
Both experts agreed any sanctions arising from the incident would most likely be decided by the schools.