Parking ticket post makes teen a cyberbullying target
MANCHESTER — A Memorial High School student has drawn the wrath of Internet trolls after she launched an online effort to raise money to pay off a $250 parking ticket.
Facebook posters have used profanities and vulgarities in deriding Ashley Mathieu-LaFrance, 16, as stupid, lazy, spoiled and trash.
One person suggested she create a porn video to raise money, another that she try amateur night at a gentleman’s club.
A website has called her a “rich Manchester chick,” and said her parents have failed her.
“It’s crazy that people judge me. They don’t know who I am or my situation. They assume I’m spoiled,” said LaFrance, a junior who plays varsity basketball.
She received the ticket for parking in a space she said she did not realize was designated as handicapped.
In her GoFundMe photo, she is standing next to her Lexus, a fact that has drawn a lot of ire.
(“If she can afford to drive a Lexus, she can pay her own ticket!,” railed Wayne Smitty Smith, a former Boston EMT, according to his Facebook page.)
Christine stresses it’s a 1999 Lexus with a banged-up hood and nearly 200,000 miles on the odometer.
Her Memorial basketball coach, who contributed $30 to the effort, said the GoFundMe page started as a way to collect money from her friends.
“She’s a great kid. She works hard, she comes to practice, she does exactly what’s asked of her, even more,” said Greg Cotreau, who said he is dumbfounded by the online remarks.
Memorial Principal Arthur Adamakos said he will let the school resource officer know of the potential cyberbullying to see if a crime has taken place.
“We don’t want people involved in situations where they feel bullied,” he said.
It might be challenging for Manchester police to do much about the posts. One persistent troll hails from upstate New York, and has continued his attacks after Ashley’s supporters posted his criminal record.
Others come from Texas, Seattle and Novgorod, Russia. Many are from Massachusetts.
Ashley’s initial Facebook post drew 179 comments, as of Thursday afternoon. The tally does not include lengthy spats on reply strings, or the comments generated when 78 people shared her original post.
Her GoFundMe page, with 4,500 shares, had raised $225 as of Thursday evening.
Her mother, Christine LaFrance, said she’s amazed what adults will say to a child.
Christine said she is a single mom on food stamps who earns about $25,000 a year working at a Londonderry shipping company. The family includes Ashley’s cousin, whom Christine adopted when her brother couldn’t care for the child. Although a lot of the family money goes toward the 5-year-old, Ashley never complains, Christine said.
“She is a selfless child,” Christine said.
David Finkelhor, a professor of sociology at University of New Hampshire and director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, said there’s no hard-and-fast rule on how people should handle online attacks.
People may decide to delete posts and turn off their computer. Others might reply.
“It’s important for adults to tell their kids if you put yourself out on a public forum, there is the possibility of a negative outcome,” Finkelhor said.