About 5:15 a.m. Jan. 6, Cole Vanderbilt no longer was the accused bully. He was the victim.
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Connell High School basketball player was featured on video screens worldwide fouling Highland High School basketball players. That prompted many to label him as a bully on the court.
Suddenly, the 18-year-old was the target of cyberbullies.
Facebook pages criticizing Vanderbilt and teammate Kennan VanHollebeke were created almost immediately after the video went viral.
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The internet has forced schools and lawmakers to react quickly to try to address cyberbullying and find ways to better protect kids, which can be difficult.
Already this session, the state Legislature is considering a bill to allow victims to sue when they are impersonated online -- such as the fake Twitter account created about Vanderbilt.
The bullying not only affected Vanderbilt and his parents, but it also spread to his grandparents, who fielded hundreds of harassing phone calls at their home, said Connell police.
Connell High and the North Franklin School District also received thousands of emails and calls about the situation.
One Facebook page, "Cole Vanderbilt & Kennan VanHollebeke -- Dirtiest Players," was filled with vitriolic comments.
"How old is that kid? he needs to be knocked out when he turns 18, what a punk."
"Hey guy. I hope you choke on your next hot dog and die you fat piece of ----"
"Cole, you should be ashamed of yourself and your parents should be equally ashamed. You are nothing more than a bully and an idiot."
The Vanderbilt family declined to be interviewed for this story, fearing that going on the record would cause the cyberbullying to crank back up.
The cyberbullying was triggered by a video recorded by a relative of a Highland High basketball player during a game just before Christmas between Connell and the Cowiche school.
It was posted to YouTube and viewed more than 6.5 million times. It also has appeared on CNN, Yahoo and the sports tabloid site Deadspin.
"When these issues go viral, people jump into it who have no connection whatsoever with the people involved," said Nancy Willard, executive director of the Eugene, Ore.-based Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.
Willard, who has written two books on the subject, said: "That's just nasty people who are using the internet. They don't give a damn about the potential pain that this could cause others. They also have a perception of anonymity."
And because cyberbullying generally happens off campus and outside of school hours, school officials have trouble controlling it.
"It is an issue, because schools don't have control over it," said Sergey Gorbatyuk, a student on the Pasco School Board. "Once you go home, schools can't do anything about it."
While Gorbatyuk said he has seen very little bullying during his four years at Pasco High, he has heard about a few cases of cyberbullying. He thinks school officials and teachers have done a good job of educating the students about its dangers.
Rachel Gilmore said cyberbullying has not been a big problem for her, at least not since middle school.
"I surround myself with people I know won't do that," said the Pasco High School senior, who also is president of her school's Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA.
It has been different for Alonso Ponce, though.
"Facebook is a big thing and you see people posting negative things and you know it's about you," said the Kennewick High School senior, who is head of his school's GSA and also is student body president.
Mark Lee, director of the Vista Youth Center, said cyberbullying is the latest manifestation of how people attack others who are different, whether it is because of sexual orientation, race or religion.
"Kids aren't getting punched in the face, as much but they're being cyberbullied," he said.
Lorraine Cooper, Kennewick School District public information officer, said: "We try to monitor those things and prevent them during school hours. Much of what happens is happening after school or not on school property.
"We are reaching out to parents to try and work with them and remind them to monitor what their kids are doing online and help us reinforce those messages about what is appropriate and what is hurtful," she added.
In 2010, the state Legislature amended its bullying and harassment laws, requiring each school district to have a primary contact for its anti-harassment, intimidation or bullying policy -- including cyberbullying.
Tri-City school districts do not proactively look for cyberbullying, relying instead on others to report problems.
In Kennewick, students can use anonymoustips.com to report bullying or other harassing behavior without fear of retribution.
"What kids do, and staff for that matter, is private," Cooper said. "We don't actively police people's Facebook pages. However, if something is brought to our attention, or if there seems to be a danger or a threat to another student, we will jump in at that point."
When students report bullying online or other harassing behavior, though, schools must follow up on it.
The Aberdeen School District last week agreed to pay $135,000 to settle a lawsuit by a former student, who had an egg smashed on his head, was taunted over his race and perceived sexual orientation, and had a malicious MySpace page set up in his name.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington represented Russell Dickerson III in the case, and said school officials must be held responsible when they fail to protect children from bullying.
Tri-Cities Prep junior Ciara Thornhill agrees.
"The schools should be more strict about it," she said, "rather than just, 'once we leave school it isn't their problem anymore.' "
Thornhill took part in November in a weeklong look into the dangers of bullying at the private school in Pasco.
But in some cases when schools have tried to be more aggressive, the courts have not seen it the same way.
When two Pennsylvania schools suspended students for MySpace parody pages of their principals, the schools were sued and eventually were told by an appeals court that they could not discipline students because the posts did not create substantial disruptions at school. The cases were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which chose not to review them.
"We've missed an opportunity to really clarify for school districts what their responsibility and authority is," Francisco Negron, general counsel of the National School Boards Association, told The Associated Press. "This is one of those cases where the law is simply lagging behind the times."
While the high court has not weighed in about how far schools can go with punishment, school officials said they will continue to try and educate students and parents about the dangers of cyberbullying.
"I think it is a school district responsibility to protect our students as far as we can protect them and to educate them," said Gregg Taylor, superintendent for the North Franklin School District, which includes Connell. "You can't separate the two. The district must have a safe environment in order for kids to learn."
Cyberbullying doesn't only affect students, either. Adults who came to Vanderbilt's defense online were electronically shouted down by others.
"There is a mistaken assumption that bullying is kids on kids," Willard said. "There is bullying in the work place. There is also bullying of students by school staff.
"We have a situation where the technology can be used for harmful purposes, but also very effectively used to disclose harmful practices of people in positions of power."
Editor's note: In Monday's paper, the Herald takes a look at the climbing number of ejections in high school sports.
* Staff writer Ty Beaver contributed to this report.