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Rebecca Sedwick suicide: Mother vows to 'crusade' for tougher bullying laws (+video)

The mother of Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old who committed suicide after being bullied, wants new state and federal laws passed. She also said she would file a civil suit.

By Staff writer / November 25, 2013

Attorneys David Henry (l.) and Matt Morgan and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (r.) surround Tricia Norman as she answers a question during a news conference in Tampa, Fla., last month.

Calvin Knight/The Ledger/AP

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The mother of Rebecca Sedwick, the 12-year-old Florida girl who killed herself in September after months of online bullying, announced Monday that she would push state and federal lawmakers to pass antibullying legislation.

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Staff writer

Fabien Tepper writes for the Monitor's science desk and weekly magazine.  She holds a master's degree in Animals and Public Policy from Tufts University, and a bachelor's degree in art from Swarthmore College.

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The mother of a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide following months of alleged cyber-bullying plans to pursue changes to state and federal law, as well as civil lawsuits against her daughter's bullies, she and her lawyer said today.

Under her proposals, children who repeatedly bully others could be sent to a juvenile detention facility, and public schools would be required to establish and follow antibullying procedures, reports Reuters.

"I'm going to make sure that other children are not tormented like my daughter was. My goal is to use this personal tragedy to make society a safer place to live, said Tricia Norman, Rebecca's mother. "I know it is what Rebecca would want."

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Ms. Norman's lawyer, Matt Morgan, promised a "crusade" against bullying, during a press conference Monday in Orlando, Fla.

Rebecca, who had changed middle schools in an attempt to escape bullying by her classmates, jumped to her death from a silo in an abandoned cement factory, leading to the arrest of two girls, ages 12 and 14, on charges of stalking, and raising many questions about who should be held responsible in cases of juvenile and online bullying, and how.

Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Fla. told the New York Times that the 14 year old had posted on Facebook, "Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself," and used internet slang to emphasize that she couldn't care less. But, he said, the girl told police that her account had been hacked, and that she had not written the posting. Last Wednesday the charges against both girls were dropped due to lack of evidence, and on Thursday the younger of the two appeared on NBC's "Today" show with her parents. She denied the felony stalking charges against her, and said the experience had taught her the importance of standing up against bullies.

Norman announced at Monday's press conference that she intended to file a civil lawsuit that would "hold them accountable to the full extent of the law," though her lawyer would not say whom exactly the lawsuit would target.

"I know having anger in my heart is not good," Norman said, according to an Associated Press report. "I keep waiting for an apology I know will never come. This lack of personal responsibility is beyond upsetting."

The Orlando Sentinel reports that a Florida cyberbullying law went into effect weeks after Rebecca's death, but that there is no criminal penalty for those accused of cyberbullying. 

The proposed law has been dubbed "Rebecca's Law," and Mr. Morgan said that it had "support at the highest levels," though he would not specify whether the proposed law had legislative sponsors.                                                                                                                                 

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