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Originally published April 26, 2011 at 12:54 PM | Page modified April 27, 2011 at 1:59 PM

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Issaquah girls, 11 and 12, accused of cyberstalking classmate on Facebook

Two Issaquah preteen girls accused of posting sexually explicit photos and messages on a classmate's Facebook page have been charged with cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Two Issaquah girls accused of posting sexually explicit photos and messages on a 12-year-old classmate's Facebook page have been charged with cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing.

According to the charges, the two, ages 11 and 12, used the alleged victim's password information to post sexually explicit content on her Facebook page. They also instant-messaged "random individuals" under the alleged victim's name to arrange sex acts, the charges say.

The Times generally does not name suspects facing charges as juveniles.

Jon Knight, who said he is the stepfather of the alleged victim but is identified by police as the fiancé of the girl's mother, said his family is relieved the case has resulted in criminal charges. Knight said he wasn't taken seriously when he reported the incident to Issaquah police and Issaquah Middle School.

Knight said his stepdaughter, Leslie Cote, has asked the media to use her name in hopes of bringing attention to the issue of cyberstalking.

Issaquah police went to the Cote-Knight home March 18 after Leslie's mother, Tara Cote, called to report vulgar postings on her daughter's Facebook page, charges said. A woman who mentors Leslie told the family she had noticed photos on the page had been changed to show Leslie with "devil's horns" and with the words "I'm a slut" scrawled across one image, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Leslie had been at the home of one of the girls in early March when she logged into Facebook. Leslie's password information was somehow stored on the girl's computer.

After the girls had a falling-out, the suspects used Leslie's password to access her Facebook page "with the intent of embarrassing and tormenting the victim," Issaquah police Detective Ryan Raulerson wrote in the affidavit of probable cause filed to support the charges.

Knight said his stepdaughter has been granted a restraining order forbidding the suspects from contacting her and barring them from riding her school bus. The three girls are in some of the same classes, Knight said.

Sara Niegowski, spokeswoman for the Issaquah School District, said Tuesday the district was not doing its own investigation because the incident did not occur on school property. She said the two girls are still enrolled at Issaquah Middle School.

"This incident happened off-campus, off school time and not related to our school environments. There is no disciplinary action at all. It's not a school-district incident," said Niegowski.

She said that the incident has not been a disruption at the school.

"You know what's a disruption is the media coverage," she said. "We always look out for the welfare of our students."

In 2008, the Legislature passed a measure requiring school districts to create a policy prohibiting cyberbullying on campus during the learning day. The law also requires schools to educate students and parents about cyberbullying.

King County sheriff's Capt. Michelle Bennett, a national expert on bullying and electronic harassment, said she has seen an increase in cyberbullying on Facebook and through text messages.

"I think the biggest part of it is education and information, letting parents and students know what cyberbullying is," Bennett said. "The Internet is a tool, just like a pencil. Are you poking someone in the eye or are you looking at it with a purpose?"

A 2010 study in a large school district by the national Cyberbullying Research Center said 9 percent of a representative sample of middle-schoolers said they had been a victim of cyberbullying in the past month. Eight percent said they'd been a cyberbully.

Adie Simmons, director of Washington's Office of Education Ombudsman, said 32 percent of the cases her office handled in the 2008-09 school year involved bullying — up from about 28 percent the year before.

In January 2010, 28 students at McClure Middle School in Seattle were suspended for allegedly bullying a classmate on a Facebook page. Even though the bullying didn't occur on school grounds, Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Patti Spencer said the district has a responsibility to get involved when an incident creates significant disruption or concern at school.

On Tuesday, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said, "This case reveals the dark side of social-media sites used by young people."

If convicted, the girls face up to 30 days in juvenile detention, prosecutors said. The 12-year-old defendant will be arraigned May 10. The younger girl faces a capacity hearing to determine whether she fully understands the crimes she's accused of committing.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

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