Florida lawmakers are turning their attention to the hot-button issue of bullying in the wake of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick’s tragic death due to suicide. The young girl chose to end her own life after relentless bullying by her peers, a story that dominated national headlines for weeks last year. Now, her plight is inspiring a campaign to reform Florida bullying laws.
Rebecca’s Law Could Make Florida a Trendsetter in Criminalizing Bullies
In response to Sedwick’s suicide, lawmakers have proposed a new measure known as Rebecca’s Law, which would prohibit bullying and cyberbulling throughout the state and impose criminal punishment for those who are found guilty. As they stand now, Florida bullying laws provide only limited protection for victims. In Sedwick’s case, law enforcement officials resorted to stalking statutes in order to prosecute the teenaged aggressors. (Those charges were later dropped.)
Rebecca’s Law would create an all-new category of criminal offense within the state, including:
- Bullying (misdemeanor) — defined as willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly harassing or cyberbulling another person
- Aggravated Bullying (third-degree felony) — defined as willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly harassing or cyberbulling another person and making a credible threat to that person
The degree of the offense would determine the scope of punishment, which could range from a fine to jail time. If passed, Rebecca’s Law would be the first bill of its kind in the country. Anti-bullying advocates hope that these cutting-edge Florida bullying laws would spur state legislatures across the country to similar action.
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Bullying on the Rise in Central Florida
Statistics show that bullying is rapidly developing into a national epidemic. Sedwick’s story illustrates that the problem is growing in Central Florida as well. With the rise of social media use among younger people, the number of students who fall prey to online bullies has skyrocketed. Experts urge parents and teachers (as well as other trusted adults) to stay closely involved in their children’s lives and to take quick action to thwart bullying issues as they arise. Sedwick’s family hopes that Rebecca’s story will help students understand how seriously bullying really is — and that Rebecca’s Law will finally create Florida bullying laws with real consequences.
Need Help Understanding Florida Bullying Laws? Call Bogin Munns & Munns
No one deserves to be bullied. At Bogin, Munns & Munns, we understand just how serious this problem is. Our attorneys can work with you and your family to counteract bullies with the full force of Florida law. If you need help, give us a call to schedule your consultation today.
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