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Grady Judd, Sheriff of Polk County, Florida, said the suspects in the case of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick’s tragic suicide “went further than bullying.”
The sheriff said the bullying was stalking and physical taunting over a ten-month period, with failed interventions by the school and the victim’s mother.
“At that point, law enforcement had to step in. And that's why we made felony criminal charges because if this can't be taken care of at home, certainly, the system has an answer.”
Judd explained the way this bullying case became more severe than just unpleasant exchanges over social media:
“Well, they were saying stuff like, ‘Go kill yourself. Go drink bleach and die.’ And this was just what was online. The 14-year-old victim [sic] actually over this period of 10 months calls the 12 year-old suspect to fight our victim Rebecca. So it was physical taunting. It was - they terrorized her, they intimidated her and it was a long standing feud, if you will, that wouldn't stop.”
Piers turned to Criminal Defense Attorney Mark O’Mara to discuss the issue of parental responsibility in a case like Sedgwick’s:
“Unfortunately, there's not a lot of responsibility put on parent's shoulders for the way their kids act online," O'Mara noted. “The kids are not old enough to understand. They've grown up in a video age where you just push a reset button and you start over again.”
Piers Morgan sat down with Alan Dershowitz, Lanny Davis and Gloria Allred to discuss the issue of bullying among children and teens and whether parents should be held responsible by law for their child’s actions.
Just last month, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick took her own life after months of relentless bullying from other children.
Alan Dershowitz, author of “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law,” said his son experienced severe bullying at ten-years-old, but argued that making a criminal law holding parents responsible for bullying behavior would be a mistake:
“We need to strike an appropriate balance. It's not easy. You mentioned my book "Taking the Stand", I tell the story of my son and the bullying and how heroically he fought back against the bullying when he was 10-years-old. But not everybody has the resources to do that.”
Lanny Davis, author of “Crisis Tales” said essentially shaming the parents of bullies can provide an alternative solution to the problem:
“Not all things can be solved by the law but perhaps transparency in letting other people know about these parents who are reckless and are not taking a stand in doing something about their children who are bullies; maybe the transparency and publicity about those parents will be one way to deter that type of behavior.”
Civil rights attorney Gloria Allred said schools should take more responsibility by making students aware of counselors they can seek help from if they are bullied. She also suggested law enforcement should provide additional counseling to victims:
“If law enforcement will provide a counselor who can victims support to that victim of a crime or a potential crime then at least the victims know where they can go if they can't go to their own parents or don't feel comfortable in talking with their own parents.”
Rebecca Sedwick would have turned thirteen years old this past Saturday.