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I haven't waded into meta issues much in my near-decade as a Kossack.  But something happened earlier this week that compels me to do so.  

As many of you know, on Monday the ringleaders of the yearlong bullying campaign against 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick were arrested for their role in driving the Lakeland, Florida teenager to commit suicide.  The two girls, 14-year-old Guadalupe Shaw and 12-year-old Katelyn Roman, stand charged with felony stalking for sending a blizzard of hateful text messages and IMs to Rebecca, as well as physically attacking her.  Following their first appearance on Tuesday, Shaw was remanded to custody while Roman was released on home detention.

When I mentioned the arrests on Tuesday, several commenters claimed that even though Shaw and Roman's names were released by law enforcement and have been made public in several media outlets, we shouldn't mention their names in posts about them here.  Well, excuse me, but I disagree.

Under normal circumstances, I believe that juveniles who have been brought up on charges should not be identified.  But speaking as a journalist by training, if there is any circumstance that calls for an exception to that principle, it is a crime as depraved as this one.  To my mind, Shaw and Roman lost any right they had to anonymity when Rebecca jumped to her death last month.

I agree wholeheartedly with Rebecca's mom, Tricia Norman, that these girls and the other 13 (at least) girls involved in this shameful episode need counseling and rehabilitation more than they need to be in a reformatory.  At the same time, though, they need a serious reality check.  Shaw proved that pretty loudly early Saturday morning, when she made what will likely go down as one of the most callous Facebook posts ever made--"Yes ik I bullied Rebecca nd she killed her self but IDGAF."  According to several experts interviewed by ABC News, that post is emblematic of a "cool to be cruel" culture which actually awards you for being callous to others in cyberspace.  Well, they need to know that this sort of behavior does have consequences.  And one of those consequences needs to be knowing that they will have to explain why they have a felony on their record.  

I would also argue that releasing the names is necessary to deter others from engaging in this kind of behavior.  Psychologist and bullying expert Elizabeth Englander told ABC that part of the "cool to be cruel" culture is that teens think nobody outside of their circle of friends will see them tormenting others online.  Remember, Shaw and Roman kept this up for so long because they were able to do it anonymously, via Kik and  If these kids know that if they're caught, they'll lose that cover, they'll think twice about it in the future.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't know. I really don't know. nt (3+ / 0-)

    Dick Cheney 2/14/10: "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . UID: 8519

    by Bob Love on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 03:10:36 PM PDT

  •  You're wrong, minor's names should not be released (6+ / 0-)

    Especially since in this country we pretend to believe that you are innocent until proven guilty.

    A mind like a book, has to be open to function properly.

    by falconer520 on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 03:11:34 PM PDT

    •  That's a separate issue, though, isn't it? (5+ / 0-)

      We always divulge the names of adult defendants even though they enjoy a presumption of innocence.  Either the law and common decency should protect the privacy of minors because they're minors, or it shouldn't; I'm not sure the accused/convicted distinction is relevant.

      You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

      by Rich in PA on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 03:35:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm sorry (10+ / 0-)

    But you either believe that children, accused but not yet convicted of crimes, deserve anonymity, or you don't.

    They have not yet been convicted.  You may be sure they will be, and you may be right.  But you either believe that children, accused but not yet convicted of crimes, deserve anonymity, or you don't.

    The test of personal convictions aren't the easy cases where you believe the person charged is the true victim, its the hard ones where the person charged is likely to be the victimizer.

    "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

    by Empty Vessel on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 03:12:40 PM PDT

    •  Exactly - we are in no position to know whether (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Empty Vessel, 73rd virgin

      someone hacked her account, or set up a fake account and posted that comment.

      Minors deserve to be protected - no matter what it "looks like" at the beginning.

      "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

      by LilithGardener on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 06:26:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is the Old Rightwing Meme That the Depravity (9+ / 0-)

    of a crime warrants a reduction in the rights of the accused and the presumption of their innocence.

    It will sell more papers to have the names available but it doesn't serve any redeeming social purpose.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 03:24:49 PM PDT

  •  I'm of two minds about it. (4+ / 0-)

    The conduct is so depraved, at least with the older one, that it's hard for me to cut her any slack beyond what the law requires, and the law doesn't require the embargo of their names in this case.  And there isn't any real-world (as opposed to stylized-world-of-the-legal-system) question about whether they did what they're accused of--the dad of the older one has spun such a ridiculous alibi that it's like hanging a "please convict me" sign on her.  But I don't think the law should permit their names to be published, so I'm reluctant to fall back on the law, despite my revulsion at the girls' conduct even after the outcome they obviously craved.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 03:33:43 PM PDT

  •  Wait for conviction, then plaster their names.... (0+ / 0-)

    ... on every wall and street corner in the state.

    Until then, they are innocent until proven guilty.

    It certainly appears they'll be convicted, but wait and see.

  •  This is nothing but the deep old need for (5+ / 0-)

    revenge that has so many people supporting the death penalty.  

    These are kids.  Their brains are not yet developed.  If they actually drove this poor girl to suicide, it's a horrible, horrible thing.  But how will spreading their identities across the country help anything?  They might be horrible, awful children.  And they might even turn into horrible, awful adults.  But let's at least provide a chance for them to be rehabilitated without acting like tea party haters.

    I have to say, I vehemently disagree with the thesis of this diary.

    •  you said exactly what i wanted to, except (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HiKa, gustynpip

      that i would hate for the entire world to know some of what i did when i was 12. if we expected 12-year-olds to use good judgement, we'd let them live alone, drive, and vote.

      as adults, we have the opportunity to use better judgement than these children did...

      "What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say"~Ralph Waldo Emerson

      by 73rd virgin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 09:36:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is the very modern problem that kids have (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        of access to very public forums that will provide very permanent proof of what they have done and said at every age. The number of kids that actually understand the idea of digital footprints and the need to tread lightly is next to none, and the number of adults likewise. Adults and kids need to be taught that if you put it out there on social media, you can't unsay it or undo it, as much as you might apologize.
        When I think of my misadventures of years long ago, I thank the great celestial void that some of what I did and said now has existence only in some twisted, aging synapses (mine and others) and a curse be upon the scientist that finds a cure for forgetfulness - we would all go mad.

        From memory there is a passage in The Ryubiat of Omar Kayyam - The moving finger writes and having writ moves on, nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it
  •  Normally I'd disagree (13+ / 0-)

    but these two are abusing the system and the freedom anonymity gives their crimes. I understand the above posters' distaste for this fully. But there has to be an exception to every rule and these two girls crossed the line.

    Why do I have the feeling George W. Bush joined the Stonecutters, ate a mess of ribs, and used the Constitution as a napkin?

    by Matt Z on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 04:33:26 PM PDT

  •  I read an article (3+ / 0-)

    that one of the girl's step-mother was arrested for child abuse today. "Vosburg beat a child with her fists in her home as several other children watched."

    This sort of thing doesn't excuse the actions of that girl, but it is likely that it greatly contributed to it.

    In this instance, I don't think releasing the names is the way to address the crisis.

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 04:42:59 PM PDT

  •  I agree with you (11+ / 0-)

    But only because the names have been officially released to the public. There's no reason to treat this differently than reporting about any other crime where the accused have been named.

    Bullying is a huge problem in our society, and it's been around long enough that a substantial portion of the public don't take it seriously, and even encourage it in their children. There is a growing awareness now, but it is slow going due to many generations of inertia. Tragic events like this need to be publicised and discussed as much as possible, and that process includes factual and detailed accounts of what happened, and the consequences to the perpetrators and those who sheltered and enabled them.

    "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

    by quill on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 06:02:41 PM PDT

  •  I would agree wholeheartedly (5+ / 0-)

    with the Author's last paragraph. In this cyber world we are now part of, these two unfortunately have called attention to themselves by being precursors to an incident which resulted in a most tragic circumstance. When does it end? Whose child may be the next victim? I do not believe they should be incarcerated, but if millions of kids could be dissuaded, and perhaps delete the message they were about to send, and save some young lives; then posting up their names would have been worth it. There is the letter of the law, and the spirit of the law. One could go by the letter of the law, and say that no juvenile's name should be published. Or, go by the spirit of the law, which would be to publish the names, and create an educational moment for everyone; especially to parents who aren't dialed in to their children's internet activities.
      So, now that their names are on the internet forever, how do they change the public's perception of them? By their actions, as they grow into adulthood. By doing good things, and sharing with others their tragic mistakes. By being leaders amongst children by educating them in regards to the consequences of bullying. And the parents of these two need to really step up and encourage that...SSK

    "Hey Clinton, I'm bushed" - Keith Richards

    by Santa Susanna Kid on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 06:30:44 PM PDT

  •  They're not innocent children at play (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Christian Dem in NC, Yasuragi

    and Rebecca is dead. Her parents and family maybe didn't know what kind of predators this ring of "mean girls" were, but other families deserve to have a warning. Yes, the names should be public.

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 11:47:30 PM PDT

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