by MEGAN ROMANCZUK Section Editor
Cyber bullying is gaining attention in the media as widespread instances sweep the nation, leading many students to commit violence against themselves or others.
Rebecca Sedwick was a 12-year-old girl who was cyber bullied. On September 9, 2013, Sedwick did not walk to her bus stop. Instead she walked to an abandoned cement plant and committed suicide.
Sedwick was a troubled teenage girl who started cutting herself when the bullying started last December. Her mother saw the slashes on her wrist, and Sedwick was hospitalized for three days with counseling.
When she returned to school, she complained about being pushed into a locker and claimed that one girl tried to fight her. Sedwick was then pulled out of school and was later homeschooled by her mother. Her mother also took the initiative to delete her daughter’s Facebook and take away her phone to help her stay away from the negativity.
This fall, Sedwick entered a new school and seemed quite happy until the bullying started again, this time over a boy.
Sedwick and one of her alleged bullies were once friends until both had a falling out when Sedwick started to date her former boyfriend. The bully began harassing her and sending her harsh messages over the internet.
Police arrested two girls who have been charged with harassment in Sedwick’s case: 14-year-old Gaudalupe Shaw and 12-year-old Kaitlyn Roman. Police also confiscated laptops and cell phones of 15 girls at Crystal Lake Middle School in which they found horrible messages about Sedwick that read:
“nobody cares about u”
“i hate u”
“you seriously deserve to die”
No court date has yet been set for the girls who will not see juvenile detention since both have no criminal records. The charge is a class-three felony, one step up from a misdemeanor under Florida law.
Bullying has escalated as time goes on, and social media plays a huge role in this case. Social media is the easiest form of bullying because the attacker can repeatedly send messages to the victim via their phone or through Facebook at any time of the day, whereas bullying in school can only take place during school hours.
Almost nine out of 10 teens have a cell phone and about one in five will be a victim of a cyber bully. The statistics are even higher for girls. Approximately 160,000 students missed at least one day of each school year because of bullying. Bullying also escalates to bigger problems such as suicide, depression, anxiety, or violence.
In 2010, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of Massachusetts committed suicide, leading authorities to file charges against six high school students who tormented her. The bullying started because the victim dated two male defendants.
Harley Campos, an 11-year-old girl, was taken out of school by her mother because she was getting bullied. However, Campos is back in school to further her education, except her mother guides her from class to class, even sitting with her at lunch to protect her daughter from the negativity.
“Campos’ school district is fine with her mother protecting her from class to class, but they don’t seem to realize that this could have all been avoided if schools had tougher bullying policies that maybe could stop it from getting so severe,” says senior Stephanie Holtje
Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old girl from Canada, used a video chat website to meet new people over the internet. During those times, she encountered a stranger that wanted her to pose for an inappropriate picture. Todd was later blackmailed and haunted by the picture throughout the many times she switched schools. Todd experienced anxiety, depression, and panic disorders due to the experience. She later experimented with drugs and alcohol.
Todd began talking to an “old guy friend” who had a girlfriend. The following week, his girlfriend and a group of others physically attacked Todd at school, shouting insults and throwing her to the ground. After the attack, Todd attempted to drink bleach, but survived after being rushed to the hospital to have her stomach pumped.
Todd was teased by other students at her school for her low grades and the times she spent in the hospital to treat her severe depression. Six months later, her inappropriate picture continued to be posted to social networking sites. Her mental state worsened and she began self-harming. Despite taking anti-depressants and receiving counseling, she overdosed and was hospitalized for two days.
On September 7, 2012, Todd posted a nine-minute YouTube video titled “My Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide and Self Harm”. The video showed her using a series of flash cards telling of her experiences. The video went viral, receiving over 1,600,000 views by October 13, 2012. On October 12, 2012, Todd was found dead in her home.
“It’s scary to think that words can drive someone to their breaking point and beat them down so badly that they’re willing to hurt themselves to ease the pain,” says junior Nicole Cohen.
How many children do parents have to lose to realize that bullying needs to be stopped? How many more news headlines are we going to read about teenagers getting bullied in an environment that is supposed to be safe? Clearly we have not reached that limit, and no one has found a way to stop bullying.
Schools have improved by suspending bullies or educating students on the effects of bullying. States have also passed anti-bullying laws, but there is still work to be done.
What are some ways you could prevent bullying in your school?