Six DMS girls cyberbullied, investigation underway

Published 2:43 pm Friday, December 15, 2023

Six Demopolis Middle School girls have been the victims of cyberbullying at the hands of two of their classmates.

At the Dec. 11 Demopolis Board of Education meeting, the parents of the young girls confronted board members over the handling of the situation, stating that the school system has not done enough to protect their children. The classmates in question are two male students who superimposed the girls’ faces on artificial intelligence (AI) generated naked female bodies without their knowledge or consent. The images were generated using a website known as porn.ai and were sent out to the DMS student population.

Tiffany Cannon, mother to one of the victims, spoke on behalf of the group. In a letter presented to the Board and the media, the parents stated that the situation is not a case of the girls taking and sending illicit photos of themselves and spreading them around the school.

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“These girls didn’t participate in this at all,” Cannon said. “These images were created by these boys, and they were distributed by these boys. We cannot overstate this: These six girls did absolutely nothing wrong.”

Cannon stated that the male students’ parents were notified on Dec. 4, while some of the girls’ parents were not notified at all.

“Communication from the school throughout this process continues to be haphazard and in almost all cases, must be initiated by the parents,” said Cannon.

Cannon added that the two male students were allowed to remain in school following the incident. 

According to the written letter, the boys were allowed in class where they sat alongside the victims, had lunch periods with them, and “attempted to socialize with them like nothing happened.” The letter went on to say that the DMS Administration had roughly 17 hours from the end of the school day on Dec. 4 to the beginning of the school day on Tuesday to plan a response to the situation, “yet used that time to do absolutely nothing.”

“How are boys, who currently stand accused of sex crimes, which are Class B felonies, allowed to be inside a school with not only their victims, but also other children, including other girls?” Cannon questioned. “As parents, when we are asked about this, we’re going to tell them it’s because the school system allowed it. So, you might want to have an answer ready for that when you’re confronted publicly. ‘The boys have a right to a free and equal education’, which is the answer we have gotten so far, is not going to be a popular one, or one widely accepted by your friends, your co-workers, and your neighbors. It’s certainly going to be unpopular with your own school-age children and your grandchildren. Furthermore, why aren’t our girls, the victims, entitled to going to school in a safe environment?”

Alex Braswell, attorney for the Demopolis City School system, said that the school system does not have jurisdiction since the incident occurred off campus. Parents argued that the photos were sent to DMS basketball players who were on campus when they received the images. Braswell then stated that it is not a crime for students to receive offensive or graphic material, but that sending it is most definitely a crime, meaning that unless other students participated by forwarding the images to others, they cannot be punished for the act of receiving the photos.

“We can’t punish a child for anything that is done not on campus, and not related to the school,” said Braswell.

Another parent asked how Braswell knew the images weren’t shared on the school campus, to which Braswell responded that investigators would have to tell school officials that the images were indeed sent from the campus. At the time of the meeting, the location had not been identified. To determine the exact location, investigators have to use what is called GeoFencing, which combines awareness of the user’s current location with awareness of the user’s proximity to locations that may be of interest.

“Once law enforcement GeoFences it, then we will know exactly where it was sent and received,” said Braswell.

Parents also referenced the Alabama School Discipline Laws and Regulations that focus on bullying, harassment, or hazing. The law states that “no students shall engage in or be subjected to bullying, intimidation, violence or threats of violence, or threats of violence on or off school property, on a school bus, or at any school-sponsored function by any other student in his or her school system.”

Cannon closed out by leaving those in attendance with an important question.

“How do we protect our girls in our school system and make sure this does not happen again?” Cannon stressed. “That question is for you, the Board of Education.”

The situation is under investigation by the Demopolis Police Department, U.S. Marshals, and the District Court. Until said investigation is complete, the male students are being isolated from the rest of the middle school student body.