Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is rarely shy about sharing his opinions, but he was especially emphatic at this week's press conference about the suicide of a 12-year-old girl -- and the cyberbullying that apparently pushed her to the edge.
In the wake of the Rebecca Sedwick's death, Sheriff Judd said his detectives are investigating as many as 15 girls, and they have seized a number of cell phones as part of their investigation.
"Seventy-eight percent of Americans 12 to 17 have cell phones -- 78 percent," he exclaimed while looking at his notes. "Cyberbullying is a problem that affects almost half of all American teens. And girls are twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying. And you ladies know you can get pretty dadgum catty as kids...the system can't manage all that cattiness.
"There's thousands of kids in these schools and there's drama every day," Judd continued. "Who's responsible for dealing with that drama? The individual child and the parent and the school systems."
Sheriff Judd was careful not to blame Rebecca's mother, who had tried to get help for her daughter and even home-schooled her for a time to help her escape the cycle of bullying. But when Rebecca started at a new school, the bullying followed -- on social media.
"At the end of the day, it wasn't a physical schoolyard fight that was the demise of this child. It was the bullying online," Judd explained, urging parents to be more involved. "In my home, if I manage to get my child in another school and things are going well, I may have a child who doesn't like me, but if I can't stop the bullying any other way, I can stop the device."
If parents can't or won't intervene, he warned, "this social media world, if we allow it, will become more out of control than it already is."