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'Ginger attacks' at Calabasas school linked to cyber-bullying

November 30, 2009 |  3:18 pm

What began as an effort by the animated TV show "South Park" to lampoon prejudice found a life of its own at a Calabasas middle school after a Facebook page inspired some students to attack redheaded 7th- and 8th-graders, officials said today.

Three boys have been booked for various crimes connected with the "ginger bashing" carried out Nov. 20 at A.E. Wright Middle School.  The Facebook page had dubbed it "National Kick a Ginger Day."

Four girls and three boys were the victims of physical or verbal abuse because of their red hair, freckles and pale complexions. Detectives are still trying to determine how long each attack lasted, but one may have been up to a half-hour, officials said.

Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. John Benedict said two 12-year-old boys were detained and booked on charges of "battery on school property because of the cumulative incidents through the day."

"This was not one incident but a number of incidents throughout the day," Benedict said.

A 13-year-old boy was booked for cyber-bullying or making a threat via electronic communication.

"He made the threat on an invite on Facebook," Benedict said.

Investigators said the three boys face potential charges and have been released to their parents. The Facebook page was not started by a Calabasas student, officials said.

Sheriff's investigators began questioning students at the school after a 7th-grader was kicked and punched on campus by a large group of boys and had to be treated for bruises and bloody injuries by the school nurse, who alerted the principal.

That same afternoon, sheriff's detectives were contacted by the parents of another 7th-grader, a 12-year-old redhead. They told investigators their son had been accosted twice by groups of 7th- and 8th-graders before first period.

Sheriff's officials interviewed 25 students and say at least eight played some role in the bullying of redheads. But they added that most of the activity did not involve physical violence and did not amount to crime.

The Facebook website that inspired the incidents seemed to draw on a "South Park" episode in which the Cartman character describes people with red hair, freckles and pale complexions as "evil" and "soulless."

Dozens of children left messages on the Facebook page claiming to have carried out attacks on "National Kick a Ginger Day," according to sheriff's investigators.

-- Richard Winton