MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich says her office is prosecuting bullies for harassment on a regular basis. Rich says, “The reason the public doesn’t hear about those is they involve juveniles. They’re handled at Strickland Youth Center and those cases are confidential.”
The DA started the “Bully Blocker” program in 2011. It’s a program where a teen can anonymously text her office by typing “BullyBlocker” to 444999. Teens don’t have to notify their parents and they’ll be able to talk with someone at Youth and Family Services. The “BullyBlocker” program is there to help victims of bullying, investigate bullying reported by a classmate, or offer advice for children and teens needing help with a bully.
Rich says, “The victim is educated to the potential paths at which they can take criminally to prosecute the person who’s been harassing them. Bullying can earn a teen a harassment charge. We’ll prosecute the bully for harassment or harassing communications if it’s done over the phone or over social media.”
On January 31st, WKRG hosted a hotline where people in the community were able to talk with mental health professionals from Alta Point. During a two hour period, dozens of people, including children 12 and younger, told the counselors they didn’t know who to turn to for help. The District Attorney gave us the details and the success rate for her “BullyBlocker” program.
The number of cases the DA’s office prosecutes each year is increasing. “We see a lot on social media. Young people think especially think that no one will take their threat seriously if they say it over some type of social media site or text but that’s not true. It’s still harassment. It’s still a crime.”
Harassment is a Class C misdemeanor carrying a penalty of $500 dollar fine and up to 3 months in the Strickland Youth Center for each count. Here’s the statue regarding bullying/harassment:
“Harassment is a person commits a crime of harassment with the intent to harass, alarm, or annoy another person. he or she directs abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture towards another person. Harassment is a threat, verbal or nonverbal made with the intent to carry out that threat that would cause a reasonable person who is the target of that threat to fear for his or her safety. Harassing communications is if with the intent to harass or alarm another person; he or she communicates to that person anonymously or otherwise via telephone or telegraph in form or written or telecommunications, which is texting, in a manner likely to harass or cause alarm.”
Rich says, “It is a problem not only in Mobile County but all over the country. It has gotten worse through the years because of the telephone.”