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Shaken by girl's stabbing, parents stress need to monitor Internet

Waukesha fire rescue personnel wheel a 12-year-old victim of a stabbing to a waiting ambulance Saturday on Big Bend Drive In Waukesha. Two 12-year-old girls, Anissa E. Weier and Morgan E. Geyser, are charged in adult court for the attempted murder of their friend.
Waukesha fire rescue personnel wheel a 12-year-old victim of a stabbing to a waiting ambulance Saturday on Big Bend Drive In Waukesha. Two 12-year-old girls, Anissa E. Weier and Morgan E. Geyser, are charged in adult court for the attempted murder of their friend. Credit: Abe Van Dyke

By Sarah Maslin, Lydia Mulvany And Erin Richards

June 03, 2014 0

Leslie Flores, a sixth-grader at Horning Middle School, refused to get on the school bus Tuesday morning.

After hearing that a classmate had been stabbed 19 times on Saturday by two 12-year-old Horning students, Leslie was afraid she'd be attacked on the bus, so her mother drove her.

Her mother, Maria Flores, fought back tears as she recalled hearing about the crime.

"We've lived in Waukesha for 15 years," she said. "We're shaken up about it."

Parents dropping students off at Horning on Tuesday morning said they had frank conversations with their children about the incident, and they stressed the need among other parents and among school officials to more closely monitor Internet activity by children.

A fictional, mysterious and violent character known as Slender Man — who is well-known among young people — played a central role in the attempted homicide. The two suspects, sixth-graders Morgan E. Geyser and Anissa E. Weier, told police they attacked their friend to please Slender Man. They had become obsessed with him online, and read about him on a website called Creepypasta.

Tamra Davis said she's limiting her 12-year-old daughter's access to the Internet because she believes there are too many disturbing details about the crime online. She's planning to call the school, and wants to know what precautions are being taken with the iPads given to students each school year.

Hermelinda Martinez has a daughter in eighth grade at Horning Middle School. She instructed her daughter to be aware of the other students around her, and to talk to an adult if she sees anything suspicious.

"She's not going to forget about this easily," Martinez said. "She's already worried about her little siblings, who will be going to Horning in two years."

Both Martinez and Flores said they are concerned that some parents don't know enough about what is going on with their children.

"I know that many parents work and are busy," Flores said. "But I'm asking parents: Please, be with your kids."

Defending the school

Superintendent Todd Gray said the school on Monday had its regular staff of two guidance counselors, a psychologist, a social worker and administrators, all trained in grief management.

"We take the emotional needs of our students seriously, and we had adequate staff available yesterday for the students who needed it," Gray said, responding to some criticism that the school had not immediately addressed the situation with students.

He said schools all over the district have been using iPads in the past few years. Gray said Saturday's incident wasn't related to the use of iPads in schools, and he said teachers do monitor technology usage at school, but can't control what happens outside the classroom.

Gray said it wasn't fair to blame the iPad — or the school — for the actions of the two girls accused of plotting for months to kill their friend.

"This is an isolated incident, with some kids who clearly have some issues. To point the finger at the middle school in any way is wrong," Gray said.

Websites featuring fictional horror and paranormal stories can be pulled up on any kind of device that has access to the Internet, Gray said. None of the words or content on the site would trigger most Internet content filters used by schools.

"I reviewed the site," Gray said, referring to the Creepypasta website. "It's not as bad or as violent as some of the TV shows that are available to everybody."

On Monday night, the district's chief information officer, Steve Schlomann, sent out a survey to school information technology workers around the state asking whether they were filtering Creepypasta before Monday.

Erin Richards thumbnail
About Erin Richards

Erin Richards covers K-12 education in urban and suburban Milwaukee, as well as state politics related to education issues.

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