Early Monday morning, a 12-year-old girl in Lakeland, Florida jumped off a cement tower to her death. It turns out that she was driven to take her own life due to rampant bullying from other girls at her former middle school--even though her parents complained. Now law enforcement is investigating--and her parents want to know how this was allowed to happen.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says a 12-year-old girl committed suicide earlier this week after she was bullied online by more than a dozen girls. He says the sheriff's office is now investigating the cyber-bullying.According to Judd, Rebecca's laptop showed she'd been pushed to the breaking point. She was doing numerous searches for suicide-related topics.
The mother of Rebecca Sedwick has been vocal since her daughter's death saying it was bullying that led her to commit suicide on Sept. 9 and that the school district did not do enough to protect her.
After gathering sufficient evidence, Sheriff Judd recounted the tragic events of Rebecca's final moments and confirmed she did indeed commit suicide by jumping off a tower.
Sheriff Judd said his investigative team is still unraveling the online squabbles between Rebecca and about 15 girls.
He said the bullying began over a boyfriend. In November, she ran away and in December she was hospitalized for three days after cutting herself. There were school fights and at that point the school stepped in to separate the girls' schedules and, later, Rebecca even changed schools.
But the bullying continued online, on sites such as Ask.fm, Kik, Instagram and Voxer.
According to Rebecca's mom, Tricia Norman, this was the culmination of a disgusting saga that had been going on for over a year.
Tricia blames bullying that she said started late last year at Crystal Lake Middle School by a group of five or six girls over boys.It turns out that as many as 15 girls were involved. Judd says that the parents of those girls are cooperating fully, and a lot of cell phones and laptops have been confiscated. They could all be staring down the barrel at stalking and cyberbullying charges.
"She would come home every day saying she's not worth anything, she was ugly and stupid," Tricia remembered of her daughter.
Last January, Tricia complained to school administrators and filed a report on the district's website.
"Crystal Lake Middle School specifically should have disciplined these girls that were bullying her and taken it more seriously. [They] blew it off. I told them Becca has been threatened, these girls are going to jump her. 'We'll talk to them' they said, and she still got jumped."
The bullying got so bad Tricia said Becca would cut herself. In February, Tricia pulled Becca out of school and homeschooled her. She closed her daughter's Facebook account to stop the cyber bullying, and this year Becca switched schools. They thought the bullying had stopped.
"The people who did this need to be punished. My sister did not deserve to die at a young age," said Summer Howard, 19, Becca's older sister.
As disturbing as this story is, several parents at Crystal Lake Middle told WTSP in St. Petersburg that this may not be an isolated incident.
Students and parents say bullying is a problem at Crystal Lake Middle.If this is even half true, then if I'm the principal at Crystal Lake Middle, I'd have a lawyer on speed dial. It should never take someone having to take his or her own life to bring a problem like this to the forefront.
Alexander Howard Koreck says he's been bullied. "They yell, kick hit, say you are nothing, look at you like you are nothing."
Former student Lindsay Nivens says reporting the bullying is a problem too.
"When you do tell staff, you get picked on more by kids for snitching them out," she says.
Do the staff respond to the increased bullying?
"No," replies Lindsay. "They blow it off."
One of Rebecca's supporters has set up a Facebook page in her honor here.