Rebecca Sedwick Suicide – Should the Parents of the Accused Teen Be Charged As Well? [POLL]
Last month, following a verdict handed down in the Autumn Pasquale murder, the late girl’s parents filed a lawsuit against the parents of the perpetrators holding them civilly liable.
While there probably will be no monetary gain here, the act is more symbolic than anything.
It begs the question: Should parents be held liable for the crimes committed by their minor children?
Such is the case in the suicide of Florida 12 year old Rebecca Sedwick.
The parents of one of the two girls are claiming their daughter did not drive Rebecca to take her own life. Rather, they’re claiming their daughter’s Facebook account was hacked.
The parents of one of two girls accused of tormenting a Florida 12-year-old — driving her to suicide — claim their daughter didn’t post the callous Facebook message at the center of the case.
Instead, they say they're “sure” her account was hacked.
The post is what prompted Polk County authorities Monday to charge Guadalupe Shaw, 14, with felony aggravated stalking against Rebecca Sedwick.
The heartless comment posted Saturday allegedly said, “Yes ik [I KNOW]I bullied Rebecca nd she killed her self but IDGAF [I don’t give a (f--k)].”
But Shaw's parents told ABC News Tuesday that they regularly look at their daughter's account — and would never allow her to write anything so vile.
"I would check her Facebook every time she would get on it," said Shaw's mom, who wasn't identified.
"If we saw something that was not right, we would've addressed it and it would've ended right then," her dad added.
Shaw’s attorney also said the girl denies stalking Sedwick, a former classmate at Crystal Lake Middle School in Lakeland, and isn’t responsible for the online message.
“They were kids when this started — babies. They were 11 and 13,” she said. “Where do they learn this? ... Who is teaching them this?”
Fact is, it may not be as clear cut as someone “teaching them this;” as much as someone not fully aware of what was going on around them – this despite the accused teen’s parent’s claim that the girl’s Facebook account was regularly checked.
As Emily Bazelon at Slate asked, what about the parents? Aren’t they just as much — if not more — to blame?
The sheriff described the older girl as a chronic aggressor who tormented the victim for more than a year, and said her parents gave her back her Facebook access even after learning about her alleged bullying of Rebecca.
If that’s true, the parents could be booked for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, much like parents who give their kids alcohol, or hear of deviant behavior and don’t respond to it.
“The question becomes, should they have known?” said Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyber bullying Research Center and an expert in criminal justice. “Would a reasonable person have known? In some cases, the younger the child, the easier it is to hold parents accountable.”
Age is a factor because it speaks to how much knowledge and control we expect parents to have. Think about it: If a first grader misses many days of school, it’s probably not because she’s sneaking out the back door to get stoned. An adult is more likely at fault for the truancy. A teenager might be a different story.
In this case, the ages of the defendants — one of whom is prepubescent — seem to straddle that line. Is a middle schooler old enough to be totally responsible for her own behavior? Or are her parents also partners in her delinquency?
It depends on the facts of the case. The parents of this 14-year-old maintain they often checked their daughter’s online activity and don’t believe she bullied Rebecca Sedwick to suicide. They say they are sure she was the victim of a Facebook hack. But the sheriff says that in addition to the Facebook confession, both girls made “incriminating statements” when they were arrested.
Investigators should explore the idea that the parents are potentially liable. Because if their denial was deliberately indifferent or negligent, it makes them enablers of their daughters’ stalking. By deciding to throw the book at these kids, the sheriff may have ended the bullying — but missed those even more responsible.
And that’s the point: While the question isn’t so much, “where would they learn such behavior;” it then becomes, “why wasn’t this behavior noticed beforehand and supposedly allowed to continue?”
It’s true what the editorial claims in that the case isn’t as open and shut as it may seem, but it does warrant an investigation into the role the accused teen’s parents may have played - or not played - in the suicide of Rebecca.
Take the poll, and if you wish, add your own comments as to whether or not you've confronted the parents of a bully.