Two Girls Charged After Suicide Of 12-Year-Old Girl Who Was Bullied On The Internet

article-2420424-1BCF1102000005DC-539_634x502There are two arrests in Florida after the suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick (left) who was bullied on the Internet, including at least one mocking posting by one of the girls after the suicide. The two girls (aged 14 and 12) have been charged with felonies.

One of the suspects went to the same school with Sedwick and had been dating Sedwick’s former boyfriend. The boyfriend has since gone public to criticize the two girls. The other girl was once Sedwick’s best friend. The older suspect allegedly organized other kids to hound and abuse Sedwick. Up to 15 kids harassed Sedwick. Comments ranged from “drink bleach and die” to “You should die” and “why don’t you go kill yourself?” According to reports, the night before Rebecca killed herself, she messaged a friend that, “I’m jumping. I can’t take it anymore.”

article-2462887-18C1E35700000578-522_306x423One of the girls went to Facebook after the suicide to say that she didn’t care about the suicide. Police say that, despite being contacted in the case, the parents continued to allow their girls to use Facebook. The girls, ages 12 and 14, have been charged with felony aggravated stalking. The father of the 14-year-old told media that his daughter was “a good girl” and he was “100 percent sure that whatever they’re saying about my daughter is not true.” The prosecutor has said that he would arrest the parents if he could. The question is whether the parents of the victim will sue the parents of the suspects in torts as a civil matter.

The charges for some will renew the anger over the lack of any conviction for Lori Drew who pushed a young girl to suicide by tricking her on the Internet into believing there was a young boy in love with her and then dumped her.

This case also raises an interesting question of journalistic ethics. While other sites have released the photos and names of the girls (since the prosecutor did so as individuals charged with felonies), other sites have withheld the information due to their age. The question is whether, in light of the public release of the names and mugshots by the prosecutors, the information should be made available to readers or censored out of this and other sites. It is an ironic protection given the accusation against the girls of organizing a group of girls to hound Rebecca. Yet, these are very young girls who are normally protected from public disclosures in criminal cases.

What do you think?

67 thoughts on “Two Girls Charged After Suicide Of 12-Year-Old Girl Who Was Bullied On The Internet

  1. I have no problem with minors who are alleged to have committed a crime to not have their names released. However, I have been following this story and the Facebook comments by one of the alleged perps is disturbing. Do these parents actually read what their kids are doing on Facebook and other sites?

  2. This is a horrible, senseless tragedy. My heart goes out to the families of all involved. We need to be looking at where kids who bully learn it and why they do it. Treating the symptom instead of the cause is never a cure.

  3. Could this case create unintended consequences in Freedom of Speech cases? Traditionally the courts have placed the burden of responsibility on the “listener” not the “speaker” even in near incitement cases.

    Ex: Rush Limbaugh or Michael Moore are not held responsible for what a “listener” may do except in clear cases of incitement to violence, etc. where the speaker commands a listener to act (not hints or insinuations, etc).

    As tragic as this case is, could the remedy be worse than the ailment? Should the government be regulating politeness? Who judges what that means?

  4. The parents utter oblivion to the reality of their children’s behavior makes it clear, at least to me, why they have behaved the way they did (and do). Sad, all around.

  5. Generally bullies need to be beaten up by people their own age or younger. The best people on Earth are those who take on bullies. Dogs do not put up with bully dogs. Some of us hump other dogs, male or female, but that is not bullying.

  6. LouisCK did a brilliant riff on this type of bullying. How iPhones and the ubiquity of being able to communicate in so many ways but face to face means that kids don’t learn empathy. When you say something mean to a another kid you see the hurt reaction. Now, narcissists don’t see it but the vast majority of kids see the hurt caused and change their behavior. I walk through the UC campus. The students are walking alongside other students and not talking, they’re texting. Clockwork Orange precursor.

  7. Children are learning their callous disregard from their parents and our society. When children hear people calling the poor, elderly and disabled “parasites” and “takers,” how else would they be expected to behave?

  8. Technology is a much bigger problem. There have always been callous parents. They learn through interaction on a human level that it’s much more difficult to be callous, mean, etc. They’re not getting that human reaction to what they say. The other stuff has been going on for millennia.

  9. I disagree. There were a few bullies, but the complete lack of civility that pervades our culture is recent. No doubt, technology contributes to it, but it’s not the cause.

  10. I’m talking w/ kids! This is when they are learning, or supposed to be learning, about how their words, actions, etc. have consequences. Kids learn MUCH more from their peers than from their family. If they don’t learn form interaction w/ their peers the hurt that is caused, they won’t ever learn. That callousness will be set in stone. This is basic child development psychology that LouisCK put in a superb riff, YouTube it. I know your thinking the world is horrible, and indeed it indeed can be. But, this problem is different, it is much more fundamental and dangerous.

  11. I don’t think the world is horrible, I just think about 47% of the folks in this country have become a nasty bunch of sociopaths.

    (Edited profanity to pass through the vortex of doom.)

  12. Having lived in having lived in seven different states — two of them in the northeast — and two different countries, I can state with authority that there are a$$hats everywhere.

  13. Agree totally. Just bustin’ lady balls. I kinda like Kentucky. And profanity will get through often times. It’s that Shakespeare that’s the problem.

  14. nick spinelli 1, October 17, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Technology is a much bigger problem.
    So, people don’t kill, guns technology does?

  15. Juliet N. 1, October 17, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Having lived in having lived in seven different states — two of them in the northeast — and two different countries, I can state with authority that there are a$$hats everywhere.
    Oh my name it is nothin’
    My age it means less
    The country I come from
    Is called the Midwest

    I’s taught and brought up there
    The laws to abide
    And that the land that I live in
    Has God on its side

    – B.Dylan, “With God on Our Side”😉

  16. Sociopaths, and their idiotic parents that they no doubt learned this behavior from (or at minimum the tacit approval of it), should be permanently removed from society. Very little evidence that people ever grow out of this behavior. Blaming it on adolescence is short sited. Those that do are the exception that prove the rule that these kids will be sociopaths for the remainder of their lives and should be removed from society.

  17. I’ve written here before that I was bullied throughout my school years up until the middle of my Junior year in High School. The bullying was both taunting and and physical. There were days that I feared going to school and I averaged about 40 absences a year from being “ill”. Back then many of the “bullies” were coddled by teachers. The memories are quite unpleasant and it has kindled a hatred in me for bullies of all kinds.

    I wrote the above because my feeling about this prosecution is that it is specious. These girls behavior was horrific and I would be in favor of publishing their names as punishment. I would even be in favor of a tort action by Rebecca’s parents. However, a criminal felony charge is over the top and sets an unfortunate precedent that will impact on free speech in unforeseen ways. All bad deeds are not necessarily punished by criminal law. All tragedies cannot have a satisfying resolution. This is the case here.

  18. I would like to interrogate the parents of all three of the girls involved. Were psychotropic drugs involved? Had the girl that committed suicide been suffering from any level of depression and was she getting any help? What activities do all three of the girls participate in? We’re obviously doing something terribly because many of our children are having problems and prosecution children is not the solution. The patients have taken over the asylum.

  19. Mike S.,
    I have to disagree about the felony charges. These bullies, allegedly harassed this victim until she committed suicide. They can say whatever they want, but those words can have consequences.

  20. “Mike S.,
    I have to disagree about the felony charges.”


    I understand your position and acknowledge that what Rebecca went through and now her parents are going through is a horror. The girls though are 14 and 12. Remembering what it was like to be that age, even as a victim, I can’t say that they ever considered the consequences of their actions. No doubt they deserve some punishment, but the justice system would merely push them further into the direction they are heading. There needs to be a better method of dealing with this in my opinion. You must on one hand teach them what responsibility is, with the caveat though that few at those ages understand the concept. My preference would be supervised psychotherapy for a number of years and community service that might tech them some compassion.

  21. This case makes me want to HIT someone…and I am a peaceful person at heart! Honestly, I can’t muster up any compassion for these 2 bullies! Lets face it they worked HARD at destroying Rebecca. I do not see these girls as to young to know what they were doing. They tormented this girl with relish and I think their faces should be plastered across every newspaper and they should be charged to the full extent of the law. Good point about guns not killing people, people do…and now we as a society have got to deal with those who use technology to kill people. It’s not about your freedom and civil rights…it’s about protecting the innocent!

  22. Tragic as it may be the young girl was not forced to follow the insults on facebook. If everyone was held accountable for the feelings we cause everyone else we encounter we would all be in jail.

  23. there is only one way to deal with stuff as exhibited here, and elsewhere on this blog, such as the same day video of the off duty cop cuffing that women. I can’t believe that no one stands up. I will tell you now that I could not help myself from so doing.
    don’t know why, but I am wired that way. this shit only stops when people stand up in the face of it. all the talk in the world, including the (quite intellectual) talk on here does nothing. Acts carry the day and always have. Face it down every chance you get, or just learn to eat it. Life is, after all, nothing but a series of choices – binary really.

  24. I am wondering if I commit suicide and leave a note blaming it on comments that i read on a social forum how successful my family would be to sue someone for their loss.

  25. This is not murder, it is far worse. These little beasts programed Rebecca to kill herself, they introduced the idea suicide as a means of lessening the offence her existence posed to right thinking persons like themselves.

    One cannot say that suicide was the inevitable consequence of the bullying but one can say that the probability of suicide was significant. This behaviour should be prosecutable as murder.

  26. Juliet N. 1, October 17, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    They’re horrible, but they’re still children. REALLY HOW MANY CHILDREN DO THIS?

    the 14 year old went to the dead girls fb page after her death and posted and i quote” “”Yes ik (I know) I bullied Rebecca nd she killed her self but IDGAF (I don’t give a f–k),” the message read.

    Shaw’s parents have since argued that her daughter’s Facebook page was hacked because they actively monitor it and believe she wouldn’t write such a thing.

    lie number 1 if the parents actively monitored their childs computer activity it would never have gone this far

    The 12-year-old not only reported the abuse to her school, but when her mother felt enough wasn’t being done to help her daughter she was transferred to another school.

    Still, the bullying followed her in the form of cyber stalking say investigators.

    A search of Sedwick’s computer unveiled several messages from girls who among a number of heartless insults and cruel words encouraged her to go kill herself, authorities say.

    actually if all of the parents were monitoring their children this death would have never happened because there would be no little boy for them to be fighting over.. as each of them are to young to dating… BUT THIS LITTLE GIRL learned this behavior at home.. as they say about all kids.. already at 14 she shows sociopathic behavior when it comes to relationships.. when she reached adult hood it would have only been much worse she more then likely would be the type to kill any woman she thinks is interested in a man she is interested in. ex fatal attraction,, obsessed, sleeping with the enemy/.. yes they are movies but all movies are based on real life and we’ve seen the stories over and over again on investigation discovery so please dont attempt to act like im over reacting this scenario has already been played many many times

  27. Robin: “already at 14 she shows sociopathic behavior when it comes to relationships.”

    Right, she’s a problem. I and others have argued on this forum that people’s brains are shown not to mature until their early 20s, that whole action-consequence network just isn’t fully formed. That builds in some slack based on age IMO. But when those terrible consequences are staring you in the face and you display no remorse? Maybe she needs some time in a medical facility where the doors lock from the outside.

  28. Robin: All the things you mention are parental failures. Why should a CHILD — there’s a reason children are not held to adult standards, in most cases — be thrown away because her parents are useless? Maybe she will need to be incarcerated for life, but that’s a decision that needs to be made further down the road, after some intervention.

    I’ll also note that I find it incredible that someone who is so virulently anti-Semitic would be making value judgments about anyone else’s behavior. You ought to remove the log from your own eye, before you start digging around for a splinter in someone else’s.

  29. Adults who smoke in front of children are encouraging them to smoke and that means encouraging suicide. Children who encourage others to smoke are encouraging others to be a dumb as their parents. Television is full of shows encouraging kids to smoke. This new one advertised constantly in TBS about the mob shows six different dorks smoking furiously. This will encourage punks who want to grow up to be adult punks to start smoking.
    The suicide thing would be of lessor consequence if the medical treatment that these smokers go through did not cost all the rest of us so much money.
    Teachers who smoke should be fired. Principals who smoke should be shot in public.

  30. Full disclosure: I HATE BULLIES. Bullies rob kids of their youth; they impair the maturation of their victims; they negatively impact the educational process; they are petty; they are small. I could go on. In some cases, their actions lead to tragedy.

    When I was a youth, boys bullied and it was physical. Girls teased and it was verbal. Today, probably as an unintended consequence of gender equality, teasing has morphed into a form of bullying. Maybe this is a good thing, but physical bullying is easier for the legal system to deal with. An assault is an assault. It can be punished as an assault. When the bullying is verbal, things become more difficult. The slope from allowing legitimate speech to prohibiting verbal bullying is a slippery one.

    For example, the Democratic candidate for governor in New Jersey (whose name neither I nor anyone else can remember and who is destined to lose by a 2-1 margin in a state her party controls heavily) has, in a desperate attempt to demean her opponent Chris Christie has called Christie a bully. Christie, the rotund, jovial incumbent undoubtedly has, due to his girth, suffered from bullies in his youth. Surely, Christie did not physically bully his adversary. What could he have possibly said that could be considered verbal bullying that was not also legitimate political discourse?

    The legal system has difficulty dealing with bullying of the verbal kind. For example, in the Florida case, how do you punish adolescent girls when they act like adolescent girls? There are no easy solutions.

  31. Vincent, I agree with your slippery-slope concerns but Christie is a poor poster-boy for the inappropriate use of the word bully. The first several times I saw him on the news I did not know or care what his party was but the first word that came into my mind was “bully”. He may be jovial when he’s making a point in a totally non-threatening venue but anyone that asks him a question, a question about something he doesn’t want to talk about, is in for a raft of rude and abusive vitriol. He’s thin skinned to say the least. He’s a bully.

  32. Vincent,

    I don’t know but I was bullied by many large, fat kids. I agree with LK, Christie has always seemed a bully to me.

  33. It’s a bully off here this morning. Corzine tried to bully Christie w/ “He’s fat” ads and got it shoved up his elitist ass.

  34. We should draw a distinction between being a bully and being New Jersey. A bully picks on those weaker than he (or she). Stuffing it back in the face of the media does not constitute picking on someone weaker than you. It’s what passes for charm in the Garden State and is one of the reasons for Christie’s popularity. Media vs. politician is always a fair fight.

    More full disclosure: I am a son of the Garden State and know of what I speak.

  35. “More full disclosure: I am a son of the Garden State and know of what I speak.”


    It’s funny but I have lots of family and friends in NJ and I find them not having that kind of Garden State charm as exemplified by Christie.

  36. Mark,

    There’s nothing wrong with being in the minority. Christie’s spit-in-your-eye style resonates with blue collar, ethnic Jerseyans, the kind that have never seen an NFL game but root for the Giants solely because they play in NJ; the kind that when you open their microwave you find eggplant parmesan; or the kind that, after a night of bowling, head for the diner and order a Taylor porkroll sandwich. Sorry for the run-on sentence there. Most recent poll (October 10-14) shows Christie leading 62-33, notwithstanding that Democrat Booker took the Senate seat just last week with 55% of the vote and Republicans nationwide have been taking a beating.

  37. Pete,
    That is an amazing story of how the family in Maryville was treated after their 13 year old daughter was raped.
    I don’t have any doubt that Chris Christie is a bully. He may gets votes because of it, but he is a bully.

  38. RobinH45…I agree with you. The parents are to blame to a point but at age 14 you are well pass the age of discretion. I for one do not buy this crap that she was not yet developed brain wise….does that go for all the other kids as well?

  39. Yeah, Jean, who cares about all that stupid science crap. Your gut instinct about a child you’ve never met is certainly superior to actual empirical evidence.

  40. @ lottakatz Thank you for understanding exactly what i meant. at that age there should be some remorse for being part of a reason someone took their life. especially since the 14 yr olds reasoning is behind a little boy. the 12 yr old dated first and in all reality there should be no boyfriends in any of their existence at that age. but of course we have those who are all right with that and then they wonder where serial killers, sociapaths, etc come from!!!! ??????

  41. i have a comment stuck in the dregs will someone please dig it out. not sure what word i put in it that would get it stuck in the filter … and if it can be rescued i thank you much

  42. Being that my daughter and husband are both PC users… My husband has a mirror of my daughters computer on his computer, so we can AL:WAYS see what she writes to other people and on the internet….

    If I EVER caught my daughter bullying somebody in person or on the internet, I would remove her social life sooooo FREAKING fast, her head would spin…..
    Of course I have DRILLED in her from a VERY young age, that we do not
    bully people….. that we treat EVERYBODY with kindness….

    being that bullying is an ON going thing….
    I think these girls should be punished with the FULL extent of the law
    and then some…..

    I also think the parents should have to do some kind of
    community service to learn how to act like a parent…….

  43. Robin, I understood exactly, that FU message sure looked sociopathic and that child needs something. We may disagree on what but we did get the same vibe. That message didn’t bode well for her future or society’s future if she is allowed to remain free.

  44. JAG! Haven’t seen you around for quite a while except once last month I believe it may have been. I hope you are well and everything is fine with you. Nice to see you again and good for you (and your kids) on the home training in kindness.

  45. Hi Lottakatz,

    Thank you for the warm welcome back…:-)

    I hope all is well with you….

    and thank you also for the kind compliment….
    I was bullied in school… and it was HORRIBLE….
    I have NEVER bullied anybody… and I wanted to make sure my daughter
    was the same way……

    I wish more parents would give a care about how their kinds act….
    It would be a much better world if this were the case….

  46. Gene, thanks for the update. I find that decision troubling. I would have hoped that the decision to drop the charges would have come with a requirement that the “diversion program” the older girl had entered would be completed successfully as determined by professionals. Apparently the 12 year old just walks? I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with the state just washing its hands of them so… shallowly? That’s the word that comes to mind.

  47. LK,

    I’m not happy about it, but I do have mixed feelings on the issue. I think parents bear some responsibility when it comes to bullying – both in preventing it and in teaching their kids how to deal with bullies. That being said, any time a systematic pattern of abuse can be proven – either physical or psychological – I think there should be remedy.

  48. Hey Gene,

    I think it’s hard to draw a legal line between coercion and bullying. Is there even a legal definition for bullying. We have some very mean spirited people in our society today. You would have to determine the mindset of the antagonist(s) and one of the girls appears to have been much more mean spirited than the other. This doesn’t seem to stop with children so there are also some level of sociological aspects to this case. Obviously parents and many members of society play a role in the raising of our children. These children are also young and old enough to be both innocent and cognizant of their actions. A sad story none the less.

    Situations like this drive me up a wall because I believe that there are some profound aspects of our socioeconomic system that also plays a role and could be changed, if the specific will of the people existed.

    I think it would have ended up being a psychological battle between those prosecuting and those defending and a difficult can of worms in which to gain a social benefit. However, it is an obviously a problem. I thought the Officers statement that he wished he could arrest the parents was cool.

    Hopefully the mere fact that they were arrested sends an interesting message to those children and all those following the story. How do you think this will play out? I know this is your area of interest.

    Do you know if there was any real physical abuse in this situation or just harassment?

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