Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Florida needs to STFU

October 25, 2013

Friday, October 31, 2013

Good morning:

I write today to criticize Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Florida. In case you do not recall his name, he is the vocal sheriff of the county where 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick jumped to her death from a tower in an abandoned cement plant after she could no longer endure internet bullying by two girls, 12 and 14 years old. He arrested and charged the girls with stalking. I wrote about this tragic case here.

CBS Crimesider is reporting today:

Judd told CBS News’ Crimesider that he charged the girls with stalking because what they did to Sedwick went beyong bullying into harassment and intimidation, but he also said that Sedwick had problems at home that may have contributed to her state of mind on the day of her death. According to Judd, Sedwick slept not on a bed at home, but in a recliner. Her sister, said Judd, slept on the couch, and the girls’ clothes were kept in “grocery sacks” in the living room.

Sedwick’s mother, Tricia Norman, has been in trouble with the law since at least 1995, when she was charged with multiple counts of writing bad checks, according to Polk County records. In 2005, she was again charged with writing bad checks, as well as fraud and probation violation. The records reveal that Norman apparently has several aliases, including Tricia Craig, Tricia Howard and Tricia Jones.

These comments are extremely offensive and unacceptable. The so-called “problems at home” to which Sheriff Judd refers do not refer to absence of love or neglect. They describe poverty.

22 million children in this country live in poverty, according to the most recent census.

The prior record to which CBS Crimesider refers consists of writing bad checks 8 and 18 years ago.

Sheriff Judd should know that poverty and unemployment are rampant in this country. Millions of people are out of work through no fault of their own. Living in poverty does not mean that a parent loves their child less than any other parent.

Richard J. Coley is the Executive Director of the ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education. Three days ago in What The Poverty Rate Tells Us, he wrote:

The “official” poverty rate, first adopted in 1969, is based on a list of income thresholds for families of different sizes; the thresholds are updated annually to recognize inflation. For example, in 2011 the threshold for a family of four is $23,021. The definition used in this measure uses money income before taxes and tax credits and excludes capital gains and noncash benefits such as food stamps and housing assistance. Some details about who is in poverty using the “official” Census Bureau measure are provided below.

Of the 46.2 million Americans in poverty in 2011 the largest number are White (31 million). 13 million Hispanics, 11 million Blacks, and 2 million Asians are in poverty. The official poverty rate is 15 percent. Of course that’s an average and averages often hide as much as they reveal. So here are some differences in the poverty rate for different groups of people. Among racial/ethnic groups, 28 percent of Blacks, 25 percent of Hispanics (any race), 13 percent of Whites, and 12 percent of Asians are poor. The poverty rate for our nation’s children is 22 percent. While 6 percent of married-couple families were poor, the rate for families with a single female householder with no husband present is 31 percent. The poverty rate for those with a disability is 29 percent. For those working full-time the rate is 3 percent; the rate for those who have not worked at all during the year is 33 percent. It’s only when you start to look at poverty across these segments of the population that the bigger picture becomes meaningful. Then, instead of just faceless averages and generalizations, you can start to visualize the people affected–the how and why. Looking at the poverty numbers this way gives us clues to strategies that can help us combat it.

Sheriff Judd has no business expressing his personal opinions about anyone. Period. For any reason.

To add to a mother’s grief for the loss of her child by making comments like this is disgusting.

CBS Crimesider has no business trashing a grieving mother for problems she had with the law 8 and 18 years ago.


How can we prevent cyber bullying

October 19, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Good afternoon:

On September 9th, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick jumped to her death from a tower at an abandoned cement plant in Polk County, Florida. She committed suicide because she could no longer endure a vicious campaign of cyber bullying by two girls and their friends. The two girls allegedly started bullying Rebecca because they were jealous of her relationship with a 13-year-old boy. The bullying continued for almost a year and persisted even after the relationship with the boy ended.

The case has been in the news recently because police arrested the two girls on Monday and charged them with aggravated stalking. The 12-year-old girl has publicly admitted she was wrong and apologized to Rebecca’s mother, but the 14-year-old girl posted a comment on Facebook acknowledging,

Yes ik I bullied REBECCA nd she killed her self but IDGAF!!!!

The Polk County Sheriff has publicly chastised the 14-year-old’s stepmother because she denied knowledge of the bullying and defended the girl saying her facebook account had been hacked.

He said “she doesn’t get it,” and “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

He said he is considering charging her with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The stepmother was arrested yesterday and charged with two counts of child abuse for slugging two children. She claims that she was only attempting to break-up a fight between the two victims. The incident was captured on video.

Rebecca’s suicide has focused national attention on cyber bullying and internet stalking. Crane and I know something about that because certain members of the right-wing hate-machine have been stalking us for over a year. Some of our readers who have websites also have been targeted by obsessed and twisted haters.

People have different ways of dealing with the haters. I ignore them. Young people like Rebecca are more vulnerable and wound more easily. Teenagers lack maturity and can be especially cruel. In a culture where many people believe that it’s cool to be cruel, there can be little doubt that we will see more preventable tragedies like Rebecca’s.

The question is what, if anything, do we do about it?

Ironically, Mark O’Mara is in the news again for his effort to draft legislation that would hold parents accountable for cyber bullying by their children. The statute would create a duty to know what your kids are doing on line and criminalize a failure to prevent your kids from cyber bullying.

There are four major problems with this effort.

First, criminal laws traditionally prohibit certain acts accompanied by a particular mental state. One of the most basic principles of criminal law is that you have to know what you are doing when you commit a prohibited act. You do not have to know the act is prohibited, but you do have to know what you are doing when you commit the act.

Second, criminal laws traditionally do not create duties to supervise others and criminalize the failure to discover objectionable conduct and prevent it.

Third, many teenagers are more knowledgeable than their parents about using the internet and there are ways they can access the internet without their parent’s knowledge.

Fourth, are the police going to be monitoring internet activity to prevent cyber bullying and, if so, is that a good idea?

As a society, we have a tendency to respond to tragedies by enacting new criminal laws. However, criminal laws cannot solve all of our problems.

The importance of education and workshops in changing human behavior should not be underestimated.

What do you think?


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