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Felony Charges In A Cyber-Bullying Death

Felony charges against two girls in the cyber-bullying death of 12-year old Rebecca Ann Sedwick. We’ll look at young tormenters and the law.

Pallbearers wearing anti-bullying t-shirts carry the casket of Rebecca Sedwick,12, to a waiting hearse as they exit the Whidden-McLean Funeral Home Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, in Bartow, Fla. Polk County Sheriff's Office investigators say they believe Sedwick leaped to her death from a structure at an abandoned cement plant last week following months of bullying. (AP)

Pallbearers wearing anti-bullying t-shirts carry the casket of Rebecca Sedwick,12, to a waiting hearse as they exit the Whidden-McLean Funeral Home Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, in Bartow, Fla. Polk County Sheriff’s Office investigators say they believe Sedwick leaped to her death from a structure at an abandoned cement plant last week following months of bullying. (AP)

Unprecedented felony charges this week against two young girls in Florida accused of harassing a 12-year-old classmate so relentlessly that she jumped to her death – suicide – from a lonely industrial tower.  The girls told Rebecca Ann Sedwick she “should go kill herself.”  Rebecca finally did.  The cyber-bullying messages went on even after her death.  No remorse.  Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County said it’s gone too far.  He’s bringing in the full weight of the law.  This is a turning point.  He’s with us.  Up next On Point:  cyber-bullying, young tormentors, and the law.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Jerriann Sullivan, reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. (@JerriannOS)

Justin Patchin, professor of Criminal Justice in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, co-director of the Cyberbulling Research Center. Co-author of “School Climate 2.0: Preventing Cyberbullying and Sexting One Classroom at a Time” and “Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying.” Author of the forthcoming, “Words Wound: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral.” (@JustinPatchin)

Sheriff Grady Judd, Polk County, FL sheriff. (@PolkCoSheriff)

Sue Shellenbarger, columnist for The Wall Street Journal.

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal: The Teen Empathy Gap — “‘Cognitive empathy,’ or the mental ability to take others’ perspective, begins rising steadily in girls at age 13, according to a six-year study published recently in Developmental Psychology. But boys don’t begin until age 15 to show gains in perspective-taking, which helps in problem-solving and avoiding conflict. Adolescent males actually show a temporary decline, between ages 13 and 16, in a related skill—affective empathy, or the ability to recognize and respond to others’ feelings, according to the study, co-authored by Jolien van der Graaff, a doctoral candidate in the Research Centre Adolescent Development at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Fortunately, the boys’ sensitivity recovers in the late teens. Girls’ affective empathy remains relatively high and stable through adolescence.”

Slate: Two Girls Charged With Felony Stalking in Rebecca Sedwick Suicide Case. That’s Not the Answer — “While I know that it’s very hard to try to feel compassion rather than loathing for the 12 and the 14 year old in this case right now—and that asking for it will be scorned as making excuses for them—I do think we have to try to understand what was going on behind those loathsome posts.”

Orlando Sentinel: Sheriff in Rebecca Sedwick suicide: Cut cyberbullying cord — “A day after Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced the arrest of two girls in the Rebecca Ann Sedwick suicide he appeared on the national television morning shows warning parents of the dangers of cyberbulling. He also vowed to prosecute anyone – children or adults – who commits such crimes. ‘People deserve to live a healthy, normal life,’ Judd told Robin Roberts on ‘Good Morning America’. ‘We will prosecute anyone we can prove has bullied or stalked someone.'”

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