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John Moriello's NYSSWA blog
Thursday, March 25, 2010: Police check link between cyber-bullying, girl's death
   Leading off today: Police are investigating whether cyber-bullying contributed to the suicide of a Long Island teen soccer standout Sunday, several media outlets are reporting.

   West Islip midfielder Alexis Pilkington, 17, apparently took her own life following taunts on social networking sites, The New York Daily News reported. The paper said the abusive comments continued -- particularly on formspring.me -- after her death, worsening the grief for her family.

   "Investigators are monitoring the postings and will take action if any communication is determined to be of a criminal nature," Suffolk County Deputy Chief of Detectives Frank Stallone said.

   Pilkington's parents downplayed the role the online activity may have played, saying Alexis was in counseling. "I believe in my heart that cyber-bullying wasn't the cause of Lexi's death," said her mother, Paula Pilkington.

   The teen's friends have unified in support, leading a wave of a staggering 16,000 people who have registered for a memorial page on Facebook this week. They've also launched a boycott effort against formspring.me, which later issued a statement expressing condolences to the family according to LongIslandPress.com.

   "Like those closest to Alexis, we believe there are other underlying issues at work when someone decides to take their own life," the statement said. "We will work with authorities through proper legal channels to help prosecute any criminal acts involving the misuse of our system."

   Facebook has cooperated in removing some offensive messages and images, The Associated Press reported.

   New York is not among the more than 15 states that have laws making cyber-bullying a harassment crime or making it easier to investigate or prosecute, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.

  
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  •    ESGs get $500K boost: The revived Empire State Games received an important boost yesterday as First Niagara Financial Group announced it is contributing $500,000 for the 2010 event and beyond. The bank is based in Buffalo, where this ESGs are scheduled for July 21-25. First Niagara also has a significant presence in Rochester, which will host in 2011.

       "This is a compelling greater good mission. We take our role as community players seriously,” said John R. Koelmel, president and CEO of the bank.

       Koelmel said the bank has committed $500,000 to the state, and will be working with businesses to raise $500,000 more. The state’s office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced in September that it needed to raise $1 million in private funds.

       According to The Post-Standard, Parks department spokesman Dan Keefe said the ESGs are a "go" for 2010 and '11 but the state still needs to raise more money. It has budgeted $1.7 million for the next two years.

       On the radio: With the Federation basketball tournament coming to Glens Falls for the final time for at least three years, I'll be a guest tomorrow at 1 p.m. for "On the Sidelines," hosted by Vinny Aceto on Radio NYC 91.5 FM.

       Longtime NYSPHSAA and Federation tournament committee member Frank Clemente will also do a segment on the hour-long show. The show will also be available on the Internet.


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