ORLANDO — The mother of a Florida girl who committed suicide after complaining about being bullied said Monday that she will push lawmakers to pass new anti-bullying legislation because current laws don’t do enough to protect children.
Tricia Norman and her attorney also said during a news conference that she plans to file wrongful death lawsuits against those she believes are responsible for her daughter’s death, though she refused to identify those people specifically.
“I intend to hold them accountable to the full extent of the law,” Norman said.
Rebecca Sedwick jumped to her death at an abandoned concrete plant in September. A month later, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested two of her classmates, ages 12 and 14, on charges of aggravated stalking.
Those charges were dropped last week because of insufficient evidence, and an attorney for the younger classmate has indicated he will pursue a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office.
Morgan wouldn’t say which lawmakers, if any, he had found to sponsor the legislative proposals in the Florida Legislature and Congress.
Spokespeople for state lawmakers who represent Polk County on Monday said their offices had not been contacted with requests to sponsor any new anti-bullying laws.
Florida already has an anti-bullying law, first passed in 2008. In part, it prohibits “bullying or harassment of any student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution.”
It also requires each school district to “adopt a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment of any student or employee.”
The Legislature this year passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law, a measure that extends the law to include bullying over the Internet or through electronic communications, known as “cyber-bullying.”
That law, however, leaves penalties up to individual school districts.
Under the state law proposal championed by Norman and her attorney, Matt Morgan, students who bully repeatedly could be sent to juvenile detention.
Under a federal law proposal they are supporting, schools receiving public funds would be required to have anti-bullying procedures in place and must follow those procedures.
The Associated Press generally does not identify juveniles charged with crimes, though the younger girl has spoken publicly alongside her family about the matter.
During an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show last week, Katelyn Roman said that she had done nothing wrong but that Sedwick’s death taught her the importance of standing up to bullying.
Norman said she was upset that Rebecca’s classmates hadn’t offered an apology.
“I know having anger in my heart is not good,” Norman said. “I keep waiting for an apology I know will never come. This lack of personal responsibility is beyond upsetting.”
At a news conference after the arrest of Rebecca’s classmates, Sheriff Grady Judd said the bullying began about a year ago after the 14-year-old girl started dating Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend.
The older girl threatened to fight Rebecca while they were sixth-graders at a middle school in Lakeland, and told her “to drink bleach and die,” the sheriff had said.
She also persuaded the younger girl to bully Rebecca, even though they had been best friends, the sheriff said.
Information from Tribune staff contributed to this report.