Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick 'jumped to her death'

5:39 PM, Sep 12, 2013   |    comments
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Lakeland, Florida -- Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says a 12-year-old girl jumped off a building to her death earlier this week in Lakeland.

Judd says Rebecca Ann Sedwick's death was driven by bullying at school and online that began last year over a boyfriend at Crystal Lake Middle School.

"Some say she was terrorized on social media by some girls," says the sheriff.

Judd offers this timeline: 

  • In November of 2012, Rebecca runs away from home, but returns. 
  • In December she's hospitalized for cutting herself. She blames it on bullying. 
  • Her mother files a bullying report with the school district. 
  • School officials say their investigation turns up nothing and they forward the mother's online bullying report to the Sheriff's Office on December 17.
  • In January, deputies respond to Crystal Lake Middle for a disturbance involving Rebecca. School officials step in, hold mediation and change their schedules, separating the students in class. 
  • The next month Rebecca is removed from Crystal Lake Middle and home-schooled for the remainder of the year. 
  • Her mother closes her Facebook account. 
  • In August, Rebecca switches schools but the bullying continues online, unbeknownst to her family.

Family members have since found postings to Rebecca's cell phone at app sites ask.fm saying things like "I hate u," "you seriously deserve to die" and "nobody likes u." 

RELATED: Bullying a problem at Sedwick's old school

See Also: Bullying Prevention tips from the FL Department of Education

Investigators learn Rebecca posted disturbing questions online, such as "How to get blades out of razors?" or "How many Advils does it take to die?"

Judd says Rebecca's mother took the right steps, but sometimes it's not enough. "If you are not searching cell phone devices taken from 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 year olds, or demanding to look, to see what's happening... you are not being a responsible parent."

A memorial for Rebecca continues to grow in front of the abandoned cement plant where she died. Balloons, cards, teddy bears and flowers adorn the site.

Investigators have identified 15 teenage girls in Rebecca's social media circle that may have been involved in the bullying. Judd says their parents are cooperating with the investigation. 

The sheriff says it is possible cyber bullying or stalking charges may be filed in Rebecca's death.

You can read more about your school district's bullying policy by clicking the links below:

Hillsborough County:

https://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/portals/parents.asp

Pinellas County:

https://www.pcsb.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=942:policy-against-bullying&catid=130:bullying-prevention

Polk County:

http://www.polk-fl.net/parents/generalinformation/bullying.htm

Pasco County:

http://www.pasco.k12.fl.us/wiki/index.php/SS:Anti-Bullying_Policy_Guide

Manatee County:

 http://www.manatee.k12.fl.us/safe/bullying1.htm

Sarasota County:

http://sarasotacountyschools.net/policy.aspx

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