Suicide — 06 August 2014

The mother of a 12-year-old Florida girl who authorities say jumped to her death because she was excessively bullied is now suing the Polk County School Board, a construction materials company and a teenager accused of stalking her daughter.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday in Polk County.

Rebecca Sedwick leaped to her death from the roof of an abandoned concrete plant in Lakeland in September 2013.

A month later, the sheriff’s office controversially arrested two of her classmates, Guadalupe Shaw, 14 and Katelyn Roman, 13, on charges of aggravated stalking.

The pair were named and shamed over the alleged incident.bigstock-depression-teen-girl-cried-lon-27260714

They were accused of harassing Rebecca while they were students at Crystal Lake Middle School, as well as cyberbulling, allegedly sending her messages such as ‘go kill yourself’.

However the charges were later dropped because police could not find any evidence of the alleged online data.

Sedwick’s mother, Tricia Norman, is now seeking more than $15,000 from each of the defendants over the death of her daughter.

The defendants are listed as School Board of Polk County, Cemex Construction Materials of Florida and a ‘former classmate’ of Rebecca’s.

Norman, who said in the aftermath of her daughter’s suicide that her ‘happiness no longer exists’, believes the School Board didn’t properly supervise the girl accused of stalking her daughter, even though they were allegedly aware of the situation.

She also claims Cemex Construction Material in Lakeland, owners of the building Rebecca leaped to her death from, did not properly care for the perimeter fence at the abandoned facility, allowing the 12-year-old to easily scale it.

The former student listed in the lawsuit is identified only as G.S.

It was alleged the bullying started when Guadalupe started dating Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend.

Witnesses told investigators Ms Shaw sent messages to Rebecca calling her ugly, telling her to ‘drink bleach and die’, and encouraging her to kill herself.

Shaw’s attorney’s denied the allegations.

Her parents also gave an interview saying they regularly checked her Facebook.

Right before taking her own life, Rebecca changed one of her online user names to ‘That Dead Girl’.

She also messaged a male friend saying: ‘I’m jumping.’

Polk County Sheriff Judd said Rebecca had been ‘absolutely terrorized’ by the other girls.

‘We can see from what we’ve been investigating so far that Rebecca wasn’t attacking back,’ Judd said.

Following a major investigation, a 300-page police report, released in April this year, found numerous factors may have contributed to Rebecca’s death.

The file said Rebecca was concerned about her mother and stepfather’s fighting, had been involuntarily committed and wrote in her diary that she cut herself to ‘ease the pain.’

She had also broken up with an online boyfriend before her suicide.

In a diary entry dated two weeks before she leaped to her death in September 2013, the girl notes that on one particular day, she had been called ‘pretty, nice beautiful, funny, awesome.’

Yet she also had been called ‘ugly, stupid, slut, fat, not good enough.’ At the bottom of the page she wrote one word: ‘suicidal.’

The file contained scant evidence of cyberbullying, even though officials publicly described cruel text and social media messages as reasons for Rebecca’s suicide.

‘Rebecca was a very fragile child,’ Sheriff Judd said in a recent interview after the report was released.

‘Rebecca’s wagon was already pretty heavily burdened with bricks. And we never said that bullying was the only reason Rebecca committed suicide. But what the bullies did, is that they continued to stack bricks on an already overloaded wagon, ’til finally it broke.’

All the facts of the case will now be argued in court as part of the new lawsuit.

This article first appeared on Daily Mail Australia on 5 August 2014.


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