French, the schools superintendent, said that she agreed with the police’s decision to treat the episode Online Cigarettes Store USA as a crime, as did Mayor Ronald P. McDougall of Gouverneur.
But some anti-bullying advocates said they believe the drive to turn young children into criminals over such behavior has gone too far.
“Parents are out for blood,” said Ross Ellis, the founder and chief executive of Stomp Out Bullying.org, Newport Pleasure a national organization. “I had a mother call me who wanted a 3-year-old on the playground arrested. I get that you don’t want your child beaten up, but it’s got to stop on both ends.”
Ellis said that the girls accused of bullying should receive counseling and that school officials and the girls’ parents should meet to explore the roots of the behavior. “It’s a terrible thing that happened, but make it a teachable moment,” she said.
Gouverneur, which has 4,000 residents and is about 30 miles from the Canadian border, is 95% white and 1% black, according to 2010 census data.
The police said that their inquiry began on Sept. 10, when the alleged victim’s mother filed a complaint saying that her daughter had been subjected to “racially motivated language” and beaten up on the bus.
The police arrested the two girls on Monday after a two-week investigation, charging them with second-degree harassment. The 11-year-old was also charged with third-degree assault as a hate crime, the police said.