Two Florida girls, one 12 and the other 14, face felony aggravated stalking charges in the wake of Rebecca Sedwick’s suicide last month in Polk County.
“If I found out my kid was bullying somebody, we would have a major sit down as a family, there would be consequences,” said Lindsey Barry, a Gainesville mother.
While Florida’s new cyber-bullying law was in place at the time of the tragedy, it did not seem to make a difference in this case.
“We have some jurisdiction, but not very much quite frankly because again we have limited jurisdiction over what students are doing at home,” said Public Information Officer for Alachua County Public Schools Jackie Johnson.
Kids used to spend most of their time on the playground, now they are spending more and more time on Facebook which is becoming a platform for bullying.
Sedwick had been the target of relentless bullying at her school and over the internet.
A Facebook posting this past weekend — what sounds like a cold-hearted admission — prompted this week’s arrest.
“Particularly here in the state of Florida judges have discretion and so if a person commits an offense if they plead guilty or no contest or they’re found guilty for the offense and they show a lack of remorse that is without a doubt going to impact the decisions of any sitting judge,” said Gainesville criminal defense attorney Thomas Edwards.
The Florida cyberbullying law intended to give schools more authority to investigate online bullying that happens off campus but that only goes so far.
“That seems to be where things sort of fell through in this particular instance. We’ve got to know. If the students will report it to us we guarantee that we will take the proper action,” said Wayne Blanton of the Florida School Boards Association.
Lawyer Thomas Edwards said there is already too much responsibility put on schools.
Law enforcement could be brought in earlier, he said, but in the end it comes down to parents and how they handle their kids at home.