The four Guilderland High School students suspended over a rap song they allegedly made that included vulgar references to fellow students are now facing criminal charges, accused of violating a county cyberbullying statute.
Each turned themselves in Thursday to the Guilderland Police Department. If convicted, the maximum penalty is a year in jail.
The four are accused of creating and posting online the rap song, in which they named 20 Guilderland High School sophomores, attributing various sexual activities to them. It was posted to YouTube on Nov. 11 and taken down the next day, after more than 1,500 views.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon announcing the arrests, Guilderland police Capt. Curtis Cox cited a 2010 law passed by the Albany County Legislature outlawing cyber-bullying. The law fit the Guilderland case, Cox said.
“The message here is that bullying will not be tolerated,” Cox said.
Charged with one count each of cyberbullying are Michael K. Malone, 17; Giovanni D. Santoro, 16; Joshua A. Thompson, 16; and Parker J. Carmichael, 17. All four are juniors at Guilderland High School and Guilderland residents. They were released on tickets to return to court Dec. 5.
Guilderland police began investigating after receiving complaints from at least two of the students named in the video, Cox said. The suspects were identified with the help of the department’s school resource officer.
The video consisted mostly of just an audio track. Visuals on the video were limited to a photo of the high school or its outside sign.
The singers in the video identify themselves by real names, but at least three were impersonations of other students, Cox said. One of the suspects used his real name, he said. They also identify their grade, according to a redacted transcript provided by the Police Department.
The transcript includes frequent sexual references and expletives, all alongside names of specific students. Perhaps the tamest reference was a sports one: “She goes all the way like the Boston Red Sox.”
After the video was posted on Nov. 11, many of the students named in it chose not to come to school the next day because they were upset, school officials said. Others notified administrators of the video when they arrived at school.
By Nov. 13, all four of the boys had been identified and suspended from school. The boys are to be have hearings before their final punishment is determined, school district officials said last week.
The Albany County cyberbullying law defines the act as “communicating or causing a communication to be sent … with the intent to harass, annoy, threaten, abuse, taunt, intimidate, torment, humiliate, or otherwise inflict significant emotional harm on another person.” Those acts include taunts, insults, humiliation, “disseminating private, personal, false or sexual information,” among other possible acts.
Cox also said a single act of communication, like the video posted, fits the law. The law references “engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts of abusive behavior over a period of time.” Cox said that includes multiple acts or a single act.
Cox said his research showed the cyberbullying law has been used at least once before, in Cohoes.
“It is a serious matter,” Cox said. “People all across the country are suffering from psychological effects of being bullied. Some have even committed suicide. I think that speaks for itself.”
The issue of bullying has been at the forefront locally in recent weeks. The parents of Schalmont High School freshman Jack Gannon-Zebrowski have blamed his recent suicide on bullying at school.
Police in Rotterdam investigated that case, but failed to find any conduct that rose to the level of criminality.
Cox suggested parents have a conversation with their children about situations such as the one in Guilderland, “how something that perhaps the kids thought was a big joke can transform into something that’s extremely serious.”