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State Law Bans Bullying, But Authorities Reluctant to Prosecute Children, Activist Says

Clint Hamada via Flickr

A mother whose teenage son committed suicide says Florida law already bans bullying, but authorities are too reluctant to prosecute children. The comments follow calls for tougher measures against bullying, after a 12 year old Lakeland girl took her own life.

Two girls, age 12 and 14, were charged with aggravated stalking after 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick jumped to her death at an abandoned cement factory in September. Those charges were dropped, but Sedwick's mother said she'll pursue federal and state anti-bullying legislation on her daughter's behalf.Debbie Johnston, whose son took his own life in 2005, says Florida already penalizes cyber bullying.

"It's a third-degree felony for anyone to use technology to harm, humiliate, threaten, intimidate or harass anyone under the age of 16", said Johnston.

Johnston says her 15-year-old son's bully never was prosecuted even though detectives told her he was responsible for his death. She put all of her family's savings into getting the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act passed in 2008.

The law requires schools to have an anti-bullying policy and was the nation's first authorizing schools to intervene in cases of cyber-bullying. But Johnston says the law she pushed so hard for is not being enforced.