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Assault on Calabasas boy may be tied to Facebook message targeting redheads

November 21, 2009 |  2:22 pm

Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives are investigating an assault on a 12-year-old middle school boy in Calabasas who may have been targeted after a Facebook group urged students to beat up redheads, a sheriff’s official said today.

The boy was kicked and hit in two separate incidents on the campus of A.E. Wright Middle School in Calabasas by as many as 14 of his classmates, Lt. Richard Erickson said. The students who participated in the attack may have been motivated by a Facebook message telling them that Nov. 20 was “Kick a Ginger Day,” Erickson said, but had few other details about the message.

A “ginger” is label given to people with red hair, freckles and fair skin. Erickson said the victim has red hair. He said the Facebook message stems from an episode of the animated show TV “South Park.” A show in 2005 focused on prejudice against "gingers."

The incident occurred about 8:30 a.m. Friday. The boy sought help from the school nurse, who contacted the principal. Sheriff’s officials arrived on campus shortly afterward.  “He was accosted by seventh- and then eighth-graders,” Erickson said. “He was kicked and hit with fists in various areas of the body.”

No arrests have been made yet. Detectives are investigating the incident as a possible assault with a deadly weapon. Erickson said he didn’t believe that the boy’s injuries were serious enough to require hospitalization. The victim's name was not released because he is a juvenile.

Deputies believe there may have been other victims but no other students have come forward.  The principal of A.E. Wright, Kimmarie Taylor, could not be reached for comment today.

One parent, Steve Bernal, said he was told that school officials made an public address announcement about discrimination and then teachers led discussions about the topic in their classrooms.

Bernal said he was upset about what happened but glad that the school responded so well. He said he was concerned about how the Internet may have motivated the students involved.

“How does this happen off of Facebook?” he said. “Doesn’t Facebook monitor these groups that are being created?”

Bernal said what happened prompted him to have a candid conversation with his daughter.  “First thing that I need to do is start talking to my daughter more,” he said. “It’s an eye-opener as a parent.”

Last year on the same day, several similar incidents occurred in Canada, according to media reports.  Anyone with information about the Calabasas incident is encouraged to call the sheriff's station at (818) 878-1808. 

--Anna Gorman