At least six members of Lake Oswego High School's 6A state champion football team targeted one of their former teammates, a 15-year-old African-American player, with racist messages on Twitter after he transferred from the school earlier this year.
Marqueese Royster, a sophomore, says he transferred to Lakeridge High in January. Three weeks later, he saw the racist tweets. His mother, Annalisa Royster, reported the racial slurs to the Lake Oswego Police Department and Lake Oswego High officials the following day.
Police wrote a report but have not interviewed any of the players or their parents.
Royster, a lineman for the Lakers, left Lake Oswego High following what he says was a long period of harassment and shunning by his teammates. He had considered going to Central Catholic High before transferring to Lakeridge.
"Hahahahahahaha cant get into CC [Central Catholic] doesn't have the balls to come back #bitch," said a tweet sent Feb. 23 by one of Lake Oswego's star football players.
Then came two more tweets from two anonymous accounts.
âAnyone else think the school smells a lot better without @Marqueese_31 here?â one said.
"Lake NoNigger is a lot better without @Marqueese_31," said another.
In all, nine Lake Oswego students retweeted the racist messages, according to the police report.
Lake Oswego High Principal Bruce Plato tells WW three students were suspended, but he declined to say if any were Royster's former teammates.
"It doesn't really matter," Plato says. "I just want to leave it at 'three students were suspended.'"
Lake Views, the Lake Oswego High student newspaper, reported March 2 that the Twitter account that sent the "Lake NoNigger" tweet also sent out disparaging tweets about other students. The story said the account has since been closed; school officials haven't identified who was behind it.
Cyberbullying has made headlines elsewhere in the Portland area. Last week, students at Heritage High School in Vancouver, Wash., reported that sexually explicit rumors were being spread about them on Twitter. School officials there haven't yet figured out who sent the tweets.
Nationally, cyberbullying has resulted in the suicides of several teenagers, and some members of Congress have called for laws making it a federal crime. Oregon law requires school districts to have policies against cyberbullying.
Justin Patchin, a criminal justice professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, says about 25 percent of teenagers experience online bullying.
âThatâs where kids are hanging out these days,â he says. âItâs always on.â
Patchin says social media allow teenagers to indulge sudden emotional impulses that might otherwise fade away before they can be acted on. The faceless nature of cyberbullying also allows teens to tease in a meaner way than they might in person.
Bill Belsey, a Canadian teacher and researcher who tracks cyberbullying cases, says the anonymity of attacks appeals to bullies and is especially hurtful to their victims.
"It's probably someone you know," Belsey says, "but you don't know who, and that undermines your trust in people and future friendships you may have."
Royster and his family moved to Lake Oswego in 2008 when Royster started seventh grade. He says he was suspended from middle school for three days by his second week. Another boy had stomped on a milk carton, spurting milk all over him, and then laughed. Royster slugged him.
Despite trouble with schoolmates, Royster says by his freshman year he was being contacted by scouting companies that keep tabs on high-school football players. He hopes to play someday for an NCAA Division I college, possibly Oregon State University, Virginia Tech or the University of Colorado.
He says he made few friends at Lake Oswego High School, where only about 1 percent of the students are black. He says other football players called him a âtransplant.â
Annalisa Royster says she hated what the football team's "toxic climate" was doing to her son and transferred him to Lakeridge, where he has not experienced problems.
Principal Plato says most of the Lake Oswego student body was outraged by the attacks on Royster. He says students who sent or copied the tweets deleted them—in large part because of the ire of other students.
"I've been proud of our students," Plato says. "They're trying to show the type of people we are as a whole."
Lake Oswego High's head football coach, Steve Coury, didn't return WW's calls. The coach's web page, however, includes a statement describing his philosophy: "'Treat others as you would like to be treated,' and 'we have to love each other like family,' are what you will hear from Steve Coury if you are part of the football program.â