Rebecca Sedwick would have turned 13 last Saturday. Her mother Tricia Norman wrote a heartbreaking letter on Facebook, wishing her daughter a happy birthday in heaven. In the message, Norman says her heart aches and she promises to lead the fight against bullying.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is on the same mission.
Deputies arrested two girls accused of relentlessly bullying Rebecca. They are charged with felony aggravated stalking.
Judd was in Tallahassee Monday for a Florida Sheriff's Association meeting. He is also talking to lawmakers about developing legislation to create a process to help schools intervene with bullying before it's too late.
"What I would like to see is a civil process, and we'll have to think through this together, whereby a school system can say, 'I understand you're bullying and you've used this device. OK, we've got this anger management school, we've got this anti-bully school, and by the way, we get to hold your device until you've completed the school,'" Sheriff Judd told reporters.
Rebecca's parents say they tried their best to monitor social media, but the bullies still got to her.
"In this particular event with Rebecca, the school created interventions. They successfully, between the school and Rebecca's mother, separated her physically from the bullies. But the technology is what put them back together," said Judd.
He says parents of bullying victims should take away the phone too.
"Call it an organized intervention," he explained.
Sheriff Judd says bullying should be identified, stopped, and dealt with in schools, long before it becomes a law enforcement matter.
John Borgen, the boy at the center of the dispute between Rebecca and the other girl, says students need to stand up too.
"For bystanders just to speak up. There's always going to be that person to bully somebody," said John. "I just want somebody to speak up because they are getting bullied."
It's a message everyone agrees with.
"I hope it wakes up law enforcement, the school officials, parents, everybody," said Rebecca's mother last week.
"I think we can save kids' lives and I think we can do it without calling the police and without making criminals out of kids," said Judd.
He wants state lawmakers to take up the bullying epidemic next session.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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