Mom of Florida girl who killed herself pushes for anti-bullying law

November 25, 2013 

Trisha Norman, the mother of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, who was bullied, speaks out for the first time since her daughter's death -- Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. BAY NEWS 9 PHOTO

ORLANDO -- The mother of a Polk County girl who took her own life after being bullied is pushing for anti-bullying laws.

During a news conference Monday, attorney Matt Morgan said they plan to pass a law entitled "Rebecca's Law," which would criminally punish bullies for their conduct.

Morgan is representing Trisha Norman, the mother of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, and said a civil lawsuit will be filed in this case.

The attorney said they have already gathered signatures for this statewide law and legislative support is also in the works.

In addition to "Rebecca's Law," they want to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2013, a federal-level anti-bullying law. The law would force schools that receive state funds to address and follow bullying/anti-bullying policies.

Norman briefly spoke at the news conference, saying she wants an apology that will never come.

Shortly after Sedwick jumped to her death in September, two teen girls were arrested on felony aggravated stalking charges.

Morgan said they are upset and disappointed these girls were let off without any charges.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Sedwick was tormented to death. However, attorney Jose Baez, who represented 12-year-old Kaitlyn Roman, said there is no proof of that.

In fact, his client’s parents are now considering a lawsuit against the sheriff and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their roles in the case.

Morgan said the latest development sends a bad message to other kids.

“I think it sends the wrong message,” Morgan said. “I think there should have been some kind of charge that stuck.”

The Morgan and Morgan firm has created a department that will only deal with anti-bullying and cases of bullying.

The lawyer for one of the girls who had been charged in connection to bullying Rebecca Sedwick said she agrees an anti-bullying law should be in place "if the people of Florida believe that this type of behavior should be punished."

Attorney Andrea DeMichael, who represents the 14-year-old previously charged in the case, sent the following statement Monday:

As I said from the beginning when responding to the charges brought against my client, I think an anti-bullying law should be in place if the people of Florida believe that this type of behavior should be punished. As it currently stands, Florida lacks a law that addresses bullying.

Partly due to this legal deficiency, the charges for which my client was arrested did not pass muster. In regards to Mrs. Norman's aims in passing these such laws, her efforts are respectable. However, the people of Florida should carefully consider the laws for which they are asking and try not to base their decisions on emotions.

It would be wise to consider both sides -- that is, should a child be criminally charged for bullying or should these children be handled in an alternative way, like counseling? Many times bullying can be remedied by bringing together all the parties involved and discussing the problem. Unfortunately, that is not done very often.

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