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Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Attorney: Parents of bullying suspect unaware of school misconduct

An attorney for a Lakeland 14-year-old facing a criminal charge in the suicide of Rebecca Sedwick said her client’s parents were never told of any issues at school involving the two girls.

The parents previously said they regularly checked their daughter’s social media accounts and saw no signs of bullying, therefore had no reason to talk with her about a problem the Polk County sheriff described as a pattern of behavior in person and online.

“Since they frequently monitored her and never observed these alleged messages, they did not see a problem to confront,” Lakeland attorney Andrea DeMichael said in a statement to NBC’s “Today” show.

“Furthermore, they were unaware of misconduct at school regarding their daughter. If any of these issues had been brought to their attention they would have spoken to their daughter and remedied them to prevent situations like the one at hand.”

Sheriff Grady Judd has said their daughter and another 12-year-old girl were Sedwick’s primary harassers. Both were arrested Monday and face charges of aggravated stalking, a felony. According to investigators, the bullying began last year while all three girls attended Crystal Lake Middle School.

Sedwick’s mother, Tricia Norman, has said she made numerous complaints to the school about the bullying and filed a bullying report with the Polk County school district. School officials said they talked to the children involved, but Norman said nothing was done to stop the behavior.

Norman pulled Rebecca out of Crystal Lake in February. Rebecca was home-schooled until June, then was enrolled at Chiles Middle this fall. The bullying continued online through social media until Rebecca jumped to her death from a tower at an abandoned cement plant Sept. 9.

“My client and her family are deeply saddened by Rebecca’s death and send their condolences to Rebecca’s family,” the attorney said. “My client’s parents ... are stunned at the events that have transpired.”

DeMichael reiterated the parents’ insistence the behavior she is accused off is “out of character for their daughter.” An profane, unremorseful Facebook post on the girl’s account early Saturday led detectives to make arrests before the investigation was complete. DeMichael has said her client was asleep when the post was made and that the account was hacked.

“They feel that their daughter is a loving, caring, and supportive young girl with many friends,” DeMichael said. “As parents, they encouraged open communication with their daughter about daily occurrences and regularly monitored her social activities on her cellphone and Facebook account.”

They believe their daughter’s name will be cleared. She is still at a juvenile detention center.

“As this case develops, they anticipate that the truth will come to light,” the lawyer said.

TBO.com is not identifying the suspects because of their age and because they are not charged with committing a violent act.

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