Two Charged in Florida Suicide, Local Victims React
(AP/WBEN) - It was a cold-hearted online post that a Florida sheriff says hastened the arrest of two girls, aged 12 and 14, in the bullying-suicide case of Rebecca Sedwick.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd repeated the older girl's Facebook comment almost word for word at a news conference Tuesday.
"`Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but I don't give a ...' and you can add the last word yourself," Judd said.
Authorities say Rebecca was tormented online and at school by as many as 15 girls before she climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and hurled herself to her death. But the sheriff says the two girls arrested were primarily the ones who bullied Rebecca. They have been charged with stalking and released to their parents.
Tim Rodemeyer of Williamsville knows the damage bullying can cause all too well.
His son Jamey committed suicide at the age of 14 after being repeatedly harassed because he was gay.
Rodemeyer says that arresting bullies may be necessary in some cases. "I think it's something that has to happen now because kids don't seem to be getting the fact that bullying is a terrible thing that really hurts people, and it can lead to things like this."
Rodemeyer and his wife Tracy have used their free time since the death of their son to spread an anti-bullying message at local schools and community events.
While teachers and parents are becoming more aware of bullying, much of it is now taking place outside the schoolyard, and online where adults may have less control. "The cyberbullying is 24-7," says Rodemeyer. "A lot of kids nowadays just need to be accepted by people, and that's the thing that really is the hook for the cyber-bully, because they know that."
"The best thing that parents can do is talk to their kids. Ask them how everything is going, and when they say 'ok' take it with a grain of salt and just make sure, because Jamey told us that everything was ok. We also have to change the mindset that it's ok to talk to your parents or to someone older. A lot of kids are afraid to tell you because it's embarassing that they're being bullied by someone."