It's Time to Outlaw Bullying

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

I got involved in the conversation about bullying after a young Central Florida girl, Rebecca Sedwick, leapt to her death from a water tower in an abandoned industrial plant on September 9, 2013. She had been aggressively bullied by other girls. After one of the girls commented about the suicide on Facebook -- essentially admitting to the bullying and showing no remorse -- Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd arrested the girl. The charges were soon dropped, however, as bullying is not a crime.

In my practice of family law and criminal defense, I know firsthand that while bullying may not be a crime, it can have devastating effects on young victims.

I've seen bullying victims' grades sharply decline. I've seen victims have to change their class schedules -- or change schools completely -- because a school was unable or unwilling to address the behavior of the bully. And, of course, there have been suicides.

Bullying is not name calling. It's not a little harmless schoolyard razzing. Bullying is the systematic harassment of an individual with the intent to cause substantial emotional distress.

The important elements here are "systematic harassment" and "substantial emotional distress." It can include social ostracism, "slut-shaming," extortion, sexual extortion, and more.

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