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Charges dropped against Florida teens in bullying case

Florida prosecutors announced this week that they have dropped charges against two teenage girls who were accused of bullying a classmate who later committed suicide. The two teens had been charged under cyber stalking laws.

These cases are very difficult for the communities that they impact, since there can be a fine line between making mistakes as a hot-headed teenager and taking actions that truly hurt another person. They are also delicate from a legal perspective because cyber stalking laws aren't really designed to apply to the types of harassment that teens engage in online. There is also the issue of school involvement or intervention, which many parents say would be preferable as a first step rather than getting law enforcement involved. For victims of bullying, it is important that bullies are held accountable for their actions and that aggressive online behavior is not tolerated by the community.

In this case the prosecutor said that the focus was on getting help for the two girls who were accused of bullying behavior. Bullying is a growing social ill and is causing depression and suicidal thoughts for some victims. There are varying opinions about how to address this problem in schools and at home. Here, the prosecutor said that the goal was to help the girls get into counseling.

Another issue in the case was the prosecutor's handling of the publicity surrounding the charges, with some saying that it was not appropriate to display the mug shots of the juveniles.

The outcome was that they were processed through the juvenile system and placed in a diversion program which does include counseling.

Source: Reuters, "Charges dropped against girls in Florida cyberbullying case," Barbara Liston, Nov. 20, 2013.

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