Tricia Norman, the mother of Rebecca Sedwick, said on Monday while accompanied by her lawyer that she intends to file wrongful death lawsuits in a civil court in relation to the alleged bullying endured by her daughter. She and her lawyer also said they will pursue new laws aimed at curbing bullying.
From the Orlando Sentinel:
The mother of a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide following months of alleged cyber-bullying plans to pursue changes to state and federal law, as well as civil lawsuits against her daughter’s bullies, she and her lawyer said today.
Matt Morgan, an attorney for the mother of Rebecca Ann Sedwick, promised a “crusade” against bullying during a press conference today in Orlando.
That will include pursuing a new state law — dubbed Rebecca’s Law — to criminalize bullying, a new federal law requiring schools to follow strict procedures to curb bullying and civil lawsuits against Rebecca’s bullies, he and his client said.
“Bullying has become a problem of epidemic proportions within our society,” Morgan said.
Morgan added that his firm has “support at the highest levels for” the proposed Rebecca’s Law, though he didn’t specify which lawmakers will sponsor the proposal.
In the meantime, “we intend to use the civil justice system to change behavior while we wait for our legislation to go through the proper channels,” Morgan said.
Last week, charges were dropped against the two girls who had previously been charged with aggravated stalking in relation to the Rebecca Sedwick case. At the time of their arrest, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd held the girls’ photos in front of news cameras and publicly announced their names during a press conference. A police statement alleged that the two had “repeatedly and maliciously harassed” Rebecca Sedwick for months. School officials intervened during some of those encounters, suspending the younger girl from school after she’d had a fight with Sedwick nearly a year ago. Law enforcement officials alleged that the older of the two girls, whom they claim was the “primary bully,” encouraged the younger girl to fight with Sedwick.
Last month, the Polk County sheriff’s office also released a series of Facebook chats between some of the girls.
Jose Baez, the attorney for the younger of the two girls previously charged, has maintained that there was no evidence of any criminal behavior from his client. He has indicated that some of the things said by his client were in reference to the fight the two had nearly a year ago. He said his client felt guilty about having been unkind to Sedwick during that time, as the two had been friends. The younger girl’s father also said Sedwick and his daughter “had a confrontation at school, they had a fight, and then it was over with.”
There have also been reports that Sedwick had a troubled home life, and Jose Baez has said his client herself had gone through some problems of her own, including having been bullied.
Sedwick’s mother told reporters Monday, “I have decided to file wrongful death lawsuits in a civil court against the individuals I believe are responsible for my daughter’s death.” Her lawyer declined to name the individuals they intend to sue.
Norman’s lawyer said, “As a firm, we have created an entire department which will deal with nothing but bullying and individuals who were bullied and suffered damages as a result of said bullying.”
The lawyer also issued a warning to parents: “Monitor your child’s behavior. If you believe that they are bullying another, you must take the steps necessary to make sure that it doesn’t happen again in the future, it has to stop immediately. Because if it doesn’t, you may find yourself on the wrong side of a lawsuit with your personal assets in jeopardy.”
While I am sympathetic to the victims of bullying, and to the family of Rebecca Sedwick, this is where I start to feel conflicted about the solutions. Speaking generally and not to this specific case, to start, I think the issue of bullying is often more complex than simply “this person/people bullied this person.” And in the unfortunate instances of suicide, there are often other potential contributing factors. Lastly, as I have mentioned previously, new laws often have unintended consequences. In the midst of emotional cases, those potential unintended consequences often go overlooked.
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