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More youngsters believed targeted in assaults on redheads

November 23, 2009 |  3:17 pm

As many as four youngsters were targeted in Calabasas by at least a dozen middle-school students after a Facebook group urged them to beat up redheads, authorities said.

The first reported incident occurred Friday morning when a 12-year-old boy was kicked and hit in two incidents on the campus of A.E. Wright Middle School by a dozen of his classmates, Los Angeles County Sheriff's investigators said.

Further investigation led detectives to confirm a second attack in the city, and they now believed there may be two more victims, said Steve Whitmore, a department spokesman.

The students who participated in the attack may have been motivated by a Facebook message telling them that Friday was "Kick a Ginger Day," according to Lt. Richard Erickson. "Ginger" is a label given to people with red hair, freckles and fair skin.

Whitmore confirmed that all four victims in the investigation have red hair.

The Facebook message may have been inspired by an episode of the television show "South Park." An episode in 2005 focused on prejudice against "gingers" after one of the characters said people with red hair, light skin and freckles have no souls and suffered from a disease called "Gingervitis."

Investigators have not made any arrests and don't consider the attacks to be hate crimes.

The first victim sought help Friday from a school nurse, who contacted the principal. Sheriff's officials arrived on campus shortly afterward.

Investigators say the boy was accosted by seventh- and then eighth-graders who kicked and hit him. Detectives are investigating the incident as a possible assault with a deadly weapon.

The boy's injuries were not severe. His name was not released because he is a juvenile.

Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said the network relies on its more than 300 million users to report problems with groups or events. Staff members then follow up to see if groups should be removed or reported to law enforcement, he said.

Schnitt said he had not been made aware of this specific message or group.

"Inciting violence against any individual or group is against what we stand for and our policies," Schnitt said.

--Richard Winton