Tuesday, January 16, 2018

She's not 'that' Rachel

The other Rachel suffers a setback

The northern New Jersey honor student who has sued to get her parents to support her after she moved out of their home had her initial request denied Tuesday by a judge who cautioned that the case could lead to a "potentially slippery slope" of claims by teenagers against their parents. Rachel Canning had sought immediate relief in the form of $650 in weekly child support and the payment of the remainder of her tuition at Morris Catholic High School, as well as attorney's fees. State Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard denied those motions but ordered the parties to return to court on April 22, when they will present testimony on whether retired Lincoln Park police Chief Sean Canning and his wife, Elizabeth, are obligated to financially support their daughter. The high school senior has been accepted by at least one college and is seeking to have her parents pay some or all of her tuition.— AP

Rachel Canning checked the Instagram app on her iPhone before heading into her sorority chapter meeting Monday evening. Afterward, when she checked it again, she had 200 pending "follow" requests.

It's difficult to confuse Canning, a 22-year-old blond homecoming queen at the University of South Florida, with the 18-year-old brunette of the same name who is making international headlines this week. That Rachel Canning left her New Jersey home last year, sued her parents for child support and college money, and heard a judge on Tuesday deny her demands.

Yet commenters have bombarded the social media accounts of USF's Rachel Canning, especially her old Facebook campaign page for homecoming queen, mistaking her for the other Canning.

In a matter of hours, her page exploded with long lectures about how she should be more grateful. Commenters used profanity, told her how terrible she was, said they wished she would get hit by a bus. Middle aged men from Amsterdam tried to strike up private-message conversations.

"At first, I thought, 'What the heck?' " Canning said. "I was more disturbed at the online bullying going on. Regardless, this girl's only 18. I couldn't believe there were full-grown adults that spent their day not only stalking this girl but sending bullying messages."

Her personal Facebook page, which has strict privacy settings, drew little attention because it includes her middle name.

Canning, who was named USF homecoming queen in October, said her campaign Facebook page typically got three views a day before this week. Her last post — which explained that she clearly was not the infamous Rachel Canning of New Jersey — was seen by more than 10,000 users.

Many who left negative comments realized it too late and wrote follow-up posts apologizing to Canning. Some even posted links to the correct page, which Canning deleted.

At the suggestion of a friendly commenter, Canning decided to channel the web traffic to a good cause. She posted a link to her fundraising page for the advocacy group, Autism Speaks. Canning will participate in a walk in April for her 19-year-old brother, Thomas, who has Asperger's syndrome. As of late Wednesday, she had met 94 percent of her $150 goal.

"For Rachel to turn negative attention into something so positive shows what a great person and big sister she is," said Katy Formella, Tampa Bay manager for Autism Speaks.

The USF homecoming queen is financing her college education with a Bright Futures scholarship, her salary from working in USF's Student Government and help from her parents.

Canning, a 2009 Clearwater High School grad and a senior at USF, plans to graduate in May with a dual degree in international studies and communications, and a minor in leadership studies. She also served as president of her sorority, Delta Gamma.

She views the lawsuit in New Jersey as a family matter that went viral. "It sounds like one of those high school struggles that the family should handle at a personal level," she said.

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