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Sen. Bill Nelson pushes for cyberbullying legislation

7:45 PM, Sep 20, 2013   |    comments
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Rebecca Sedwick's suicide due to bullying is creating a new push for bullying legislation and Florida Senator Bill Nelson is leading the way.

While most states have some type of anti-bullying law, there is no federal law, but one has been written. However, it's been held up in Congress under broader legislation.

The "bullying bill" has support from both Republicans and Democrats and Senator Bill Nelson may have found a way to get it passed.

"We have before us legislation to get educators and parents more involved to prevent this kind of thing, but Congress is in gridlock," Senator Nelson said as he took to the Senate floor asking Congressional leaders to put aside their differences and pass the cyberbulling legislation hung up for six years under the controversial No Child Left Behind Education Act.

Nelson hopes the bill will help keep bullying from taking another life such as 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick's.

"If we focus on this issue, the broader bill is not going to pass. Get this out in the midst of this enormous personal tragedy," Sen. Nelson argued.

"I want other senators to realize this is serious this needs to happen not just Florida but everywhere," says Tricia Norman, Rebecca's mother.

Tricia says her daughter's cyberbullies were relentless. Rebecca's mother says the bullying started a year and a half ago and continued online even after her daughter switched schools.

"It was worst than we even first imagined."

Tricia says the bullies came from Florida and other states and the bullying was bad enough that her daughter jumped to her death from this abandoned cement tower in Lakeland.

Florida has one of the toughest bullying and cyberbullying laws in the country, but is it enough?

"I think words are tough enough. They need to be enforced more, that's the key word, 'enforcement'. Schools need to be made to enforce these laws," Tricia says.

Tricia's mission now is to raise awareness, toughen the punishment for bullies and keep her daughter's message alive that "words do matter".

What would Becca say to her mom today?

"Go mom! That's what she would say," Trisha says. "She told me couple of months ago she'd be famous one day. She's really getting the word out -- I just hate it had to be like this."

The federal anti-cyberbullying legislation requires schools to report bullying complaints to parents and quickly address each case, then report them to the state for tracking. Every two years, state officials would report to Congress and the President.

Florida toughened its cyberbullying law this year, if the bullying happens after school hours and impacts the students education school officials now have the power to take action against the bully.

The Brandon Cowboys have raised more than $10,000 for Rebecca's family to help cover funeral costs. They printed T-shirts in lime neon green, Rebecca's favorite color, with bullying slogans on it. The shirts sell for $15, $5 cover printing costs and the T-shirt the other $10 goes to the family.

Anyone interested in the T-shirts can go to the group's website at click on "contact us" and message the group's organizers.

Tricia says she's in the process of setting up a foundation in Rebecca's name for her anti-bullying campaign.


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