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More attacks on redheads reported at Calabasas school

Three students reported being beaten up by about a dozen students at A.E. Wright Middle School. Authorities believe the attacks are linked to a Facebook group based on a 2005 episode of 'South Park.'

November 24, 2009|By Richard Winton

At least three youngsters in Calabasas have fallen victim to violence by fellow middle-school students after a Facebook group urged people to beat up redheads, authorities said Monday.

The first reported incident occurred Friday morning when a 12-year-old redheaded boy was kicked and hit by a dozen of his classmates at A.E. Wright Middle School, Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators said.

Detectives took reports of two more assaults, targeting a seventh-grader and an eighth-grader that day at the middle school, said Lt. Scott Chew. Investigators are trying to determine whether there was a fourth attack, officials said.

The students who participated in the attack may have been motivated by a Facebook message telling them that Friday was "Kick a Ginger Day," according to Chew.

"Ginger" is a label given to people with red hair, freckles and fair skin.

Chew said investigators believe the bizarre attacks were inspired by the television show "South Park." A satirical 2005 episode focused on prejudice against "gingers" after one of the characters claims that people with red hair, light skin and freckles have no souls and suffer from a disease called "Gingervitis."

Investigators have so far not made any arrests and don't consider the attacks to be hate crimes.

The first victim sought help Friday from a school nurse, who contacted the principal. Sheriff's officials arrived on campus shortly afterward.

Investigators say the boy suffered minor injuries, as did the other confirmed victims.

Detectives are investigating the incidents as possible assaults with a deadly weapon.

Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said the network relies on its more than 300 million users to report problems with groups or events. Staff members then follow up to see if groups should be removed or reported to law enforcement, he said.

Schnitt said he had not been made aware of this specific message or group.

"Inciting violence against any individual or group is against what we stand for and our policies," he said.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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