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At least seven redhaired students were victims of 'ginger' attacks, authorities say

November 25, 2009 |  3:50 pm

At least four redhaired girls and three boys are believed to have been victims of the so-called ginger attacks at a Calabasas middle school that authorities say were inspired by a Facebook message, a Los Angeles County sheriff's investigation has revealed.

The seven victims were targeted in a series of assaults at or near A.E. Wright Middle School that began early Friday after the perpetrators acted on a Facebook message that informed them it was "Kick a Ginger Day," authorities said. Ginger is a label given to people with red hair, freckles and fair skin.

Detectives have identified  eight boys at the school as formal subjects of the investigation, said Steve Whitmore, a sheriff’s spokesman. No arrests have been made.

The investigation began after a 12-year-old redheaded boy was assaulted by his classmates at the school, authorities said. His cuts and bruises were treated by a school nurse, who reported the incident to the principal.

"This was the most serious of the assaults," Whitmore said. "The other incidents tended to be pushing, shoving and intimation. More of an aggressive bullying."

The assailants were seventh- and eighth-graders at the school, authorities said. Sources familiar with the probe said that some action will probably be taken against at least four of the perpetrators.

Many of the new victims came forward amid the publicity surrounding the bizarre attacks, authorities said. Detectives are investigating the incidents as possible assaults with a deadly weapon.

Investigators say they believe the attacks were inspired by the television show "South Park." A satirical 2005 episode focused on prejudice against "gingers" after one of the characters claimed that people with red hair, light skin and freckles have no souls and suffer from a disease called "Gingervitis."

School officials have pledged to take disciplinary action against any of the students who participated in the attacks.

Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt has 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.

-- Richard Winton