Peer Jury Finds Teen Girls Engage in 'Vicious' Cyberbullying

teen girlCheck out what one peer jury comminuty service administrator has to say about the differences between male and female cyberullying cases. This article was originally published on the Chicago Tribune by Karen Ann Cullotta.

While boys appear before the New Trier Township Peer Jury more than three times as much as girls, officials said recently that they are troubled by the severity of the cyberbullying crimes committed by teen girls.

Brian Leverenz, New Trier Township's community service administrator, said of the 35 teens who appeared before the township's peer jury in 2013, 27 were males and 8 were females.

Still, Leverenz said he was concerned that girls were often accused of cyberbullying offenses he described as among the peer jury's "worst cases."

"The boys' cases tend to be primarily criminal damage to property and drug and alcohol cases," Leverenz said. "But these cyberbullying cases involving the girls are particularly nasty.

"A boy might beat up another boy, and the next day, they're friends again," Leverenz added. "But the girls are committing psychological warfare against each other, and it's just vicious."

Since the township's peer jury was established in 1998, Leverenz said officials have seen an uptick in the number of teens pleading their cases each year, jumping from 12 teens the first year of the program to an all-time high of 57 teenagers in 2012.

Of the 35 teens whose cases were brought before the township's peer jury in 2013, Leverenz said, 14 lived in Winnetka, nine in Northfield, eight in Wilmette and four in Glencoe.

In all, 601 teens have appeared before the peer jury in the past 15 years, with most teens sentenced to complete community service hours at local organizations, Leverenz said, including the township's food pantry and local libraries and park districts.

Leverenz said a major benefit of the peer jury program is that first-time offenders who complete their required hours of community service often have no lasting juvenile record that can hinder them later in life, for example, when applying to colleges.

"We see teens who are straight-A students, who play three sports and are in the band," Leverenz. "But a juvenile record can mean their auto insurance goes up by 35 percent."

He said the jury has been a success in many ways, something he attributes in part to those on the jury itself.

"These high school kids who serve on the peer jury do an excellent job," Leverenz said. "And the community service hours required of the offenders have helped local organizations save the expense of having to hire extra staff."

Although this administrator testifies that girls' cyberbullying cases tend to be more psychologically harmful, it is clear that any case of cyberbullying can leave the victim damaged. It is important for parents to be aware of what is going on in their kids' lives and know how to recognize when their child is involved in cyberbullying. 

The full article can be accessed here.

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