Let's think about this for a beat. A 12 year old girl, Rebecca Sedwick is cyber-bullied by two other girls, about her age, one 12, the other 14. She reports it to her mother, Tricia Norton, who then takes the issue to the school. So far, so good (in a relative sense as you'll see). The school, over ten months does nothing, at least anything that produced positive results.
Reported by Yahoo News and ABC News:
Rebecca was bullied online for 10 months and Norton said her daughter had been physically attacked five times before that, police say. Eventually, Norton pulled Rebecca from Crystal Lake Middle School in Pompano Beach to end the bullying and keep her daughter away from the two suspects, who also attended classes there.
"I made several, several reports to the school. I did an online bullying report because I thought nothing was being done by the school. And nothing was being done on that either," Norton said.
The young victim is so rocked by this continued abuse and no solution from the normal channels that she takes what she believes is the only step left. She rides her bike to an abandoned grain silo, climbs up to the top, then jumps to the pavement below, death greets her at the end of her fall.
But the tragedy doesn't end there. One of the two girls accused of the cyber-bullying continued the onslaught after the suicide with Facebook postings including this:
Yes I bullied Rebecca nd she killed her self but IDGAF (I Don't Give A F***)
Now as distraught as Rebecca's mother is, she has joined Sheriff Judd in calling out the parents, placing blame on them. Despite their denials that their kids could have done this heinous activity, the parents are being met with a unified, "horsepucky."
One of they accused girls mothers claims she checked daily to oversee her daughter's comments on FaceBook and saw nothing wrong. Really?
"You should drink bleach and die!"
That isn't a warning sign? There's nothing wrong with that?
Are these fit parents?
Evidently Sheriff Judd doesn't think so. And he's taking bold steps. He's considering charges against the parents.
"Those parents haven't cared from the very beginning," Judd said. "After this initial event, after the initial interviews, why did they let her stay on Facebook any longer?"
Judd said he's only investigating the older suspect's parents, whom he described as being "in denial."
"When the parents don't take care of the children and it becomes criminal conduct, then it becomes my responsibility, and my deputies and I know how to take control," Judd said.
Well, taking control isn't meeting with everyone's comfort zone down in the hotbed of social and legal justice, the state of Florida. The Sheriff is taking heat claiming he's overstepping his bounds. Here's what Tampa defense attorney Jeff Brown says to Tampa's Fox Channel 13 of Polk Sheriff Grady Judd actions in arresting the two girls and giving out their identities:
"He went beyond his duties. He is just a sheriff. He is not a judge, he's not a lawyer, he is not the state attorney's office, he's not representing these girls. So he is doing an awful lot of pre-judging, he's bringing a lot of his side of the facts out there, and maybe these are the facts. But I don't understand why he can't let the system play out, why he can't let the people who are the lawyers -- not the sheriff -- investigate the case, look into what's going on here, and then have a judge decide what the appropriate penalty or sentence is, and see about the proper way to handle this in a courtroom.
Spoken like a true defense attorney.
Sadly though, there's another story today that goes up in the face of this tragedy -- and it comes from the NEW YORK TIMES:
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook has loosened its privacy rules for teenagers as a debate swirls over online threats to children from bullies and sexual predators.
The move, announced on Wednesday, allows teenagers to post status updates, videos and images that can be seen by anyone, not just their friends or people who know their friends.
I'm not big on restrictions and regulations. But they do have their place. And in light of Rebecca Sedwick and so many others victims like her, it might be time for FaceBook to be bold and return to their original rules. It didn't stop this death. But who knows that maybe it stopped some cyber-bullying crimes from ever having started.