ST. PETERSBURG — City police and officials at Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School are investigating a Facebook page called "Thurgood Hoes," which the principal said contained obscene and offensive remarks about some students.
Thurgood principal Dallas Jackson said a student told him about the page Thursday afternoon. Jackson said he saw pictures of students' faces on the page, and was told by the reporting student that disparaging comments about others were being made there. Jackson said he did not know if the page was created by a student at the middle school.
Jackson also said a parent notified him that a complaint about the page also had been filed with Facebook.
"It was very disparaging and inappropriate. It was negative. It was a very distasteful use of social networking," said Jackson, who said he saw the page only briefly and could not describe it in detail.
Jackson said he called St. Petersburg police and asked officers to investigate. He spoke to a detective who also reached out to the company.
Another page called "Thurgood Hoes Sucks," apparently created to counter the offending page, also sprang up online.
"A page to stop the page 'Thurgood Hoes,' " the site says. "Girls have killed themselves over this stuff...Go on and read the picture captions, seriously terrible. PLEASE LIKE IF YOU WANT THIS STOPPED."
Jackson said the school will investigate the original page. If a student is involved, he or she will be disciplined, he added. He made a televised announcement at the school asking students for their cooperation, and also sent parents an automated phone message asking them to be aware of their children's online activities.
Jackson conceded that the anonymity of Facebook — and the possibility that no crime has been committed — could make it difficult to hold someone responsible.
Cyberbullying has become so prevalent that school districts across the country have adopted policies about it.
Experts say that while bullying is not new, when the bathroom wall is online, the potential for harm can be greater.
"Kids in middle school have been picking on each other for a long time, forming cliques and talking about other kids in mean ways," said Amori Yee Mikami, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Virginia who has studied cyberbullying. "I do think where things may be different in the Facebook era is with the potential for the gossip to spread more quickly."
Mikami said that if kids have supportive networks of friends in the real world, their online networks will reflect that.
Jennifer Crockett, a parent with two children at Thurgood Marshall, said she heard about the controversy from her daughter, a sixth-grader who does not have a Facebook account because the site requires users to be 13.
But her son, who is in the eighth grade, does have an account. She makes sure to check what he posts on his profile and monitors his settings. She asked him to pull it up on Thursday night, but the offensive page was down, she said.
Crockett said she would have a conversation with her son about temporarily deactivating the account until the mystery is resolved.
"He's not happy about that, so we'll see," Crockett said.