Days after two juveniles were arrested and charged with felony aggravated stalking, Morgan & Morgan announced Winter Haven attorney David Henry has been retained to represent Rebecca Sedwick’s mother, Tricia Norman.
“We’re going to look at every possible potentially responsible party,” Henry, the managing partner at Morgan & Morgan’s Winter Haven office, said. “We applaud the efforts of Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and his office in investigating and responding to this tragedy.”
Described by Sheriff Judd as Sedwick’s “primary harassers,” the two classmates, ages 12 and 14, were taken into custody more than a month after the 12-year-old jumped to her death from a tower at an abandoned cement factory near her home town. The two girls, as well others who went to school with Sedwick, allegedly “repeatedly and maliciously” cyberbullied her on social media for months, calling her “ugly,” encouraging her to “drink bleach and die,” and saying “nobody likes you” and “you should go kill yourself.”
After one social media post by the 14-year-old, however, Sheriff Judd decided to take action and arrest the two girls. The Facebook post, made roughly a month after Sedwick’s death, said, “Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but IDGAF,” an acronym meaning “I don’t give a [expletive].” Sheriff Judd said that the girls’ treatment of Sedwick was “a contributing factor” in her suicide and that since the two will likely not serve any time in jail, it will be up to the state attorney’s office how to proceed.
According to Henry, parents can no longer rest on their laurels when leaving their children alone with nothing but the Internet to keep their attention. With the prevalence of cyberbullying sweeping through the social media feeds of today’s youth, Henry feels it’s time to put a stop to children harassing their peers online.
“It used to be a parent could be relatively assured that their kids were safe in their room, but that’s no longer the case. A computer in a child’s bedroom is their porthole to the outside world,” Henry said. “Cyberbullying has become a pervasive problem among our children and it needs to stop.”
Florida’s anti-bullying law was amended in July to cover instances of cyberbullying. The punishment for online harassment cases, however, was left up to the schools by Florida’s legislators and not the police, who, in certain instances, may have the option of pursuing criminal charges.