Bullies, beware. You could soon find yourself hit with a misdemeanor in Florida if bill introduced in the state House and Senate prove successful. The bipartisan-backed bills would punish anyone who "willfully, maliciously, & repeatedly harasses or cyberbullies another person."
The bills were publicly backed today in a press conference by Tricia Norman, the mother of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick who killed herself in September after repeated bullying by two schoolmates. Sedwick and a 14-year-old girl got into a feud over a boy they had both dated, and the 14-year-old and another 12-year-old, who had formally been Sedwick's best friend, carried out an aggressive bullying campaign and repeatedly told Sedwick she needed to kill herself. On at least once occasion they physically attacked Sedwick.
In Septmber, Sedwick changed her name on one social media account to "That Dead Girl." Hours later she climbed to the top of an abandoned cement plant and jumped to her death.
"Yes IK I bullied REBECCA nd she killed her self but IDGAF," the 14-year-old allegedly wrote on Facebook after the incident. "IDGAF" is internet slang for "I don't give a fuck."
The two girls were arrested on aggravated stalking charges, but prosecutors said that the case didn't fit the charges. Florida's only other law concerning bullying mandates that school districts adopt an official anti-bullying policy. Sedwick's mother plans to sue the Polk County School District for not doing enough to enforce the policy.
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The proposed law would allow police to intervene with lesser charges. The charges could be bumped up to a third-degree felony if the bullying includes a credible threat.
"Kids need to know it's wrong to bully," Norman said at the press conference, according to the Associated Press. "Kids need to have consequences when they do bully."