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Florida Teen’s Death May Lead To Stricter Bullying Laws

Over the course of the last decade or so, bullying has become an increasing threat throughout school systems nationwide.  Coupled with an age of technological surges, primarily in those that boost the Internet, parents are finding more and more reasons to be wary about how kids are treating one another and through what means. So, if you’re a parent, it is important to educate yourself on the different ways words can be manipulated through the Internet and the consequences each word might have.

In Florida, a young girl named Rebecca Sedwick committed suicide because of what her mother believed was cyber bullying. Guadalupe Shaw and Katelyn Roman were initially charged as the two suspects responsible for Rebecca’s death. Despite all charges being dropped, Rebecca’s mother intends to sue those she thinks are responsible.

Tricia Norman, Rebecca’s mother, admitted that her daughter had been cyber-bullied for an extended period of time before she decided to commit suicide. It is also known that Rebecca had nonetheless revealed her plans for suicide by creating a screen name titled “That Dead Girl.”

Perception

What makes this case (and others like it) so hard to justify is perception. Let’s face it, kids are quite interesting people and are always finding new ways to surprise parents and teachers in both positive and negative ways. It’s hard to predict how kids feel and when it’s appropriate to intervene. And the law doesn’t necessarily help. Florida law defines bullying as “inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees that is severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.” The law also extends its definition as anything that might interfere with a student’s performance in school. As you can see, there is a lot of wiggle room for those accused. What one person sees as bullying might seem completely irrational to another, especially if they have others backing them up.

In Rebecca’s case, there are two things clear: she was in distress, and she made an attempt to let others around her know how she felt. Is Norman rightfully pursuing those responsible for her daughter’s death? Absolutely! But, is the law going to positively influence Norman’s situation? Maybe, but maybe not. What seems clear to me is that while the law exists as an attempt to help others, perhaps the best defense on cyber bullying is education and reformation.

For more information on this subject, visit our website and watch the video presentation by Attorney Frances Werner-Watkins on cyber-bullying.

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