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Contents Of "Inappropriate" Orchard Park Tweets Revealed | News

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Contents Of "Inappropriate" Orchard Park Tweets Revealed

ORCHARD PARK, NY - Town police continue to try and track down whoever posted what they will only will say are "inappropriate" comments on a twitter account, about members of the Orchard Park School community.

However, Two On Your Side has been able to review many of the tweets posted and which have been the source of the investigation.

There were roughly 200 tweets sent out under the now deactivated account of "OP Teachers Lounge" using the Twitter handle @optrashtalk in the past month, assailing both students and teachers by name (names which we are withholding from this story).

They ranged from insulting their looks, to disparaging their moral character, to some, which suggest violence against the subject of the tweets.

One suggested that a teacher "put on a little makeup that way you won't look like a harry potter character #ugly(expletive).

Another suggested a teacher was an abuser of alcohol: "just been informed of (Teacher's) weekend plans, gonna be in (local bar) the whole weekend does he have a family? #greathusband #drunk

Other disturbing tweets, which included the hash-tag #opwishes expressed a desire to "beat (teacher) senseless", and another which wanted to "party with (Teacher) and kill his wife."

The Orchard Park School District contacted police, who say they are consulting the Erie County District Attorney.

However, after reviewing many of the offensive tweets, prominent criminal defense and free speech attorney Paul Cambria expressed doubts that any serious charges could be levied against the posters...even those which suggest a desire that physical harm may come upon the subject.

"Wishing someone harm is not enough," said Cambria, who noted that even if one stated that they were going to harm someone, it still would be unlikely that such a threat would meet the threshold of a serious criminal charge.

"Not unless you took some affirmative step to commit such a crime," he said.

And even if charges were to come about, Cambria believes they wouldn't amount to much more than a form of harassment, which doesn't even rise to the level of a misdemeanor.

"And that's only if it's done to harass annoy or alarm someone, and if it's done in such a way that it actually does that to the individual," he said.

Indeed, even the FBI, on its website concludes, "Constraints do not exist for social media. Anyone can post anything online with little fear of repercussion."

One Orchard Park teacher who was the subject of a more disturbing tweet, and who wished to remain anonymous, told WGRZ-TV, "As a staff member I'm aggrieved because this kind of attack is faceless and it is impossible to defend myself. It's an act of a coward or cowards. I feel helpless."

They may not be.

Cambria says some of the more defaming tweets, which accuse students (by name) of being promiscuous, teachers (by name) of infidelity and others, which suggest they are sleeping with students, could land the poster in trouble...on the civil side of the law.

"Hurting someone's feeling is not actionable," said Cambria, "but saying something false about them and defaming them is." 

He notes the specific distinction of tweets in which a teacher is (falsely) accused of committing a crime.

"Believe it or not, there are still adultery statutes on the books in this state, so if you accused a married person of having sex with someone else that could be actionable..if you accuse a teacher of in someway committing a sexual offences or endangering the welfare of a minor that is a crime, so that would be actionable by in a civil case."

Erie County did pass a cyber bullying law, but it only pertains to victims who are minors...and Cambria says it may not demonstrate to be applicable here.

Still, the posters of the offensive tweets, if found to be students, would likely face discipline from the school. Especially if it is found, that they violated the schools code of conduct through their actions.

Under those circumstances, Cambria says, as a practical matter, they may not even wish to hire a lawyer.

"Even if it's wrong the cost of making it right may be prohibitory," he said, explaining that the exception might be a circumstance where the punishment is something draconian, like expelling a student and preventing them from completing his studies and graduating with his or her class.

In either case, Cambria concludes that it is more important than ever for parents to speak with their children about common sense when it comes to posting on social media.

"When you engage in this sort of stuff and you're a student, you have to be ready to be disciplined in school if you cross a line, be sued if you cross another line, or be arrested if you cross that line," he said.

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 on Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bill Boyer. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2 


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