"The students were doing something negative on the Internet and saying things about an employee," said Gus Scerbo, Secaucus school superintendent. "The information was given to the police, we now know who the students are, and meetings are going to be scheduled with the students and their parents shortly. Appropriate action will take place after that."
In recent years the MySpace Web site, where it is possible to post photos and blogs, and send messages, has grown increasingly popular with young adults. Although young adults see the site as highly convenient for exchanging information, media professionals and parental watchdog groups have decried MySpace as the bathroom wall of the Internet, with no boundaries or controls to block predators and perverts from interacting with youngsters on the site.
The Web site made the news in Hudson County earlier this summer following the accidental death of Secaucus resident Danielle Venhorst. Venhorst, 17, fell to her death down a Jersey City cliff after reaching for her dropped cell phone. After her untimely death, Venhorst's friends and family used her MySpace account to set up an impromptu memorial to her.
Recently, MySpace received media attention as a soapbox for rude behavior when seven students from Parsippany High School were suspended for posting profanity and photos of classmates and teachers on the site.
Prevention the intention
Scerbo believes the two Secaucus Middle School students, whose names were not released, behaved liked the ones in Parsippany.
"When you get into very negative things about people, whether it's a student, an employee, or another individual in the community, we have to address it," he said. "The severity of what was said will determine what decisions are made in how we treat the students after this incident. It could be a suspension or it could be other things."
Schools have become more wary of student threats in the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.
"We were all told to look into things like this so that we could prevent future problems," Scerbo said. "That came right down to us from Trenton."
Scerbo was annoyed at what he perceived as the MySpace's negligence.
"I would hope that they could control their Web site better because it's become a big problem for schools and everybody else," he said. "People go on there and indiscriminately decide to put on whatever they feel like, and it can be hurtful to people."
Censorship not seen as an issue
Scerbo is not concerned that disciplining the students for their postings will be perceived as censorship.
"When someone makes a threat concerning a person, you have got to deal with that," he said. "If you don't take action, then you are negligent, especially if something occurs. I have no problem with free speech, but if you say you are going to physically harm somebody or say something that can damage another child's reputation, there has got to be a consequence."