The mother of a 12-year-old Lakeland girl who committed suicide after allegedly being bulled at school and on the Internet has called for tougher laws against bullying in Florida.
While Florida currently has one of the toughest anti-bullying prohibitions in the nation, bullying is still not considered a criminal offense. The two girls accused of the bullying, a 14-year-old and 12-year-old, were arrested on charges of aggravated stalking and not for bullying. The charges against both girls were dropped in November 2013.
The proposed legislation would allow authorities to charge bullying as a misdemeanor, or in the case of aggravated bullying, a felony. Proposed penalties for a misdemeanor bullying charge could include community service, juvenile detention, a $500 fine and 60 days in prison. Felony bullying could result in up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The proposed legislation has been dubbed “Rebecca’s Law” in memory of the girl who committed suicide.
The attorney for the mother told NBC News, “This legislation will make parents and students aware that bullying is a crime. We believe that Rebecca’s Law will deter students from bullying in the future and will potentially save lives.”
He went on to state that, “Students need to we aware that there will be consequences for their bullying behavior.”
The mother has informed the school district that she plans to sue them for not protecting her daughter from the bullying. Although it has not been confirmed, she may also file wrongful death lawsuits.
The attorneys at Farah & Farah in Jacksonville will be keeping tabs on this legislation as it winds its way through the Florida Legislature. If you suspect that your child is being bullied, let your school district know and contact the proper authorities. The legal landscape is constantly changing in Florida, so contact us if you have questions as to what your legal rights might be in this situation.