Archived Story

Preventing a tragedy

Published 8:21pm Wednesday, October 23, 2013

One morning as I was driving in to Alexander City after a weekend at my parents’ home, I flipped on Troy University Public Radio and listened to the popular show On Point.
It was there that I first heard the heartbreaking story of a 12-year-old Florida girl named Rebecca Sedwick who committed suicide after incessant bullying from another 12-year-old and a 14-year-old. Almost more disturbing was how she killed herself – by jumping off an abandoned silo at a closed cement factory.
I couldn’t help but imagine that poor girl’s last few moments – climbing the ladder rungs, one by one, and so overcome by her pain and the hurtful words of her peers that she saw no way out. She had no way to see how many good things were left ahead of her in life.
The On Point host spoke with Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who had arrested the two girls who bullied Rebecca the previous week after the 14-year-old posted a status on Facebook that stated, “Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself, and I don’t give a … ” I’ll leave you to fill in the last word.
Judd charged both girls as juveniles with aggravated stalking, which is a third-degree felony.
According to reports, Sedwick had already swapped middle schools due to the bullying, but the bullying remained as rampant as ever on social media sites.
After her death, many messages such as “drink bleach and die,” “Why are you still alive?” and “Go kill yourself” were discovered from the past several months from the two bullies.
This case has opened a can of worms regarding teen bullying, social media and accountability and will be a landmark case, should the 14- and 12-year-olds be convicted of the crime.
But even a conviction won’t give Rebecca’s parents their child back.
“This is one of those cases where I would rather her be sitting here mad at me because I didn’t give her any privacy than to be gone because I’ll never get her back,” Rebecca’s mother said in an article in The Ledger, a Lakeland, Fla. newspaper.
None of us want to have children who are bullied or children who are bullies themselves. We like to believe our children won’t make bad choices and will treat others as they want to be treated – but ultimately that is not the case all of the time.
I encourage all parents to keep up with the social media sites your children use.
If you don’t understand it, ask questions or do some research yourself. And for children as young as 12, I’m not sure Facebook or other applications are even necessary – but that is up to your own discretion.
But be observant and be aware of what your children do, as much as possible.
If we as a community can prevent this brutal bullying from ever happening to a child in our area, then Rebecca’s death won’t be in vain.
Spears is general manager for The Outlook.

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