The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 6, 2013

Criminal case puts focus on bullying laws

WASHINGTON — Once considered a teenage rite of passage, bullying is now the subject of hundreds of state laws and a rallying cry for pundits, parents and celebrities.

The stakes are high — many teens who commit suicide experienced at least some bullying. Bullying by itself does not cause suicide, according to a research review conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But researchers found that youth who are bullied are more likely to be depressed, think about suicide and actually attempt suicide.

Coming up with a workable plan to stop bullying has proven difficult. The approaches are all over the map. For instance, Illinois requires schools to do social-emotional learning exercises to prevent bullying. During the exercises, students describe their emotions during a stressful event or recognize the emotional reactions to stress.

On the punishment side, five states don’t have any sanctions for bullying in their anti-bullying laws, while 12 states include a criminal sanction for bullies, ranging from school suspension to jail time, according to an analysis of state bullying laws from the Cyberbullying Research Center.

Montana is the only state with no law to address bullying.

The criminal side of these laws is generating controversy in Florida. Two young central Florida teens are facing felony aggravated stalking charges for bullying a 12-year-old classmate, Rebecca Sedwick, who committed suicide. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the bullying crossed the line from teen meanness into criminal harassment.

Sedwick received text messages and online messages from the two teens telling her to kill herself and that she should “drink bleach and die.” Sedwick was also physically attacked by the two girls, according to the sheriff’s department.

“Bullying shouldn’t be a law enforcement issue … but when it becomes a crime, we have to become involved,” Judd said in an interview with WBUR’s “Here and Now” radio show. Sedwick had been hospitalized after a suicide attempt in 2012 and also changed schools, but the bullying continued online.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Bills aim to improve English language instruction English language learners integrated into mainstream classrooms

    April 24, 2014

  • Allina drops celebrated birthing option MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Allina Health has pulled the drain plug on a celebrated birthing option at its 11 Minnesota hospitals and the Mother Baby Center in Minneapolis. Allina says it will no longer offer water births because of new guidance from the Ame

    April 24, 2014

  • Federal study finds mercury in trout caught in three Grand Canyon creeks PHOENIX — With their natural beauty and protected environments, the Grand Canyon and other national parks in the West would seem removed from having mercury in their streams and rivers. But a federal study found small levels of the contaminant in ra

    April 24, 2014

  • Post office sales fight grows SAN FRANCISCO — The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has issued a report to Congress that criticizes the U.S. Postal Service’s disposal of historic properties and calls for a suspension of all sales until a host of recommendations are implem

    April 24, 2014

  • Lawmakers jockey over budget surpluses WASHINGTON — Less than 24 hours after the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team beat cross-state rival Louisville to advance to the Sweet 16, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray asked state lawmakers for $80 million to renovate Rupp Arena, the iconic bui

    April 23, 2014

  • Minn. lawmakers seek to enhance privacy protection ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lawmakers are on the verge of cracking down on public employees who abuse their access to citizen data. A measure being negotiated in a House-Senate conference committee would do more to expose and punish data snoope

    April 23, 2014

  • Republican activists push party on gay marriage LAS VEGAS (AP) — As bans against gay marriage crumble and public opinion on the issue shifts rapidly, some Republicans are pushing the party to drop its opposition to same-sex unions, part of a broader campaign to get the GOP to appeal to younger vot

    April 23, 2014

  • mfp church abuse Archbishop deposition on abuse made public Archbishop John Nienstedt says no one reprimanded who handled abuse

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Legislature takes aim at new lottery games Legislators angry lottery didn't tell of new games

    April 22, 2014

  • NE ski resort extends season Lutsen still has two to four feet of snow on its runs

    April 22, 2014