Attorneys Matt Huppertz and Mark Powers are partners at the criminal defense law firm of Huppertz & Powers, S.C. in Waukesha.
Since beginning his career in 1982, Huppertz has argued before the Wisconsin Supreme Court five times and has lectured on the admissibility of DNA evidence in criminal cases.
Powers served as an Assistant District Attorney with the Waukesha County District Attorney's office as well as a municipal judge in North Prairie.
For more information, please visit www.waukeshacriminalattorneys.com.
As a football fan from Wisconsin, I have long had a deep appreciation for the oldest rivalry in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers against the Chicago Bears. Naturally, emotions can run very high between the fans of both teams and sometimes, it can get pretty ugly.
In most cases, however, it amounts to a passion for the sport and the love of one’s favorite team. It is, after all, only a game.
But the recent case involving a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay student, Kaitlyn Collins, who had previously been a Packer cheerleader, totally crossed the line of “friendly rivalry.” A photo of Collins was posted on an unofficial Bears’ fan page with an unkind note. A cascade of negative, highly personal comments about Collins followed in a nasty example of cyber bullying.
To Ms. Collins’ credit, she stood up for herself. She contacted Facebook and, when the photo and offensive comments weren’t immediately removed, she posted a video response that put her attackers to shame while denouncing bullying. Finally, after a flood of comments supporting Collins poured in, the offensive material was removed.
This case really dovetails into all of the social media and Internet issues we’ve discussed on this blog in recent months. Too many people fail to realize the far reaching implications of what they post onto sites like Facebook, Twitter, their own personal websites and countless other locations.
It’s especially true when they post nasty or obscene material while hiding behind an anonymous ID. They are not held accountable for what they write. But, so what? There’s no real harm, is there? Unfortunately, a great deal of harm can be done as this abusive language seeps into the lives of countless people.
The incident involving the Packer cheerleader provides a great illustration of the net consequences of abusing Facebook. Here you have a young woman who became the target of some very cruel, insensitive comments from people who thought they were being funny with their attacks on her photo.
To this young lady’s credit she stood up for herself and, in the process, attracted quite a bit of media attention. She called out her attackers and was able to point out how hurtful and damaging bullying, via the Internet or in person, can really be.
Obviously, it would be difficult to pinpoint whether there is any federal liability to those who posted the attacks because the offense is pretty much in the eye of the beholder. However, this case does call attention, especially to the younger audience, to what they can and cannot be doing to other peoples’ lives in this fashion.
On a day-to-day basis, I encounter cases in which parents want to know what their son or daughter may be doing via the Internet and what steps they can take to protect them from such bullying.
I tell them to do two things. First, make sure that your children are not involved in any bullying themselves. With Facebook, there is an identity attached to the comments being posted. To the very best of your ability, monitor your child’s use of the social media and the Internet. If your child has been targeted on Facebook, you can follow the example of the Packer cheerleader and contact Facebook administrators to make them aware of what’s going on.
Second, be aware that smart phones, computers and Facebook are fair game to monitor at any given time. Remember, too, that passwords on your child’s computer or phone make it virtually impossible for you to see what’s going on unless kids give you access. If they refuse, there are third party vendors like Net Nanny who have software programs designed to allow you to see what your kids are doing. If your child is a victim of bullying at school, don’t hesitate to disclose the circumstances to the administration of the school.
The big picture issue here is that parents need to be involved because bullying, cyber or otherwise, is an ongoing, growing issue. Today’s technology is changing so rapidly that people can post ridiculously cruel comments and ideas anonymously. Parents need to watch and make sure their kids aren’t part of the problem and be prepared to step in and defend them against such aggressive behavior.
For more information on how to deal with this very serious issue, visit www.stopbullying.gov.