Four months ago, Gabrielle Molina of New York City, was found hanged at her Queens Village home. She left a suicide note saying she was being harassed by students at her intermediate school.
An investigation found that the 12-year-old girl had been going through a difficult time. Friends said that Gabby got into a fistfight with another girl that was videotaped and posted on YouTube and that she had been tormented by schoolyard bullies for months.
After breaking up with her boyfriend, the negatives in her life were too much for her.
On Monday, another 12-year-old, Rebecca Ann Sedwick, of Lakeland, Fla., was laid to rest. A week earlier, authorities said she climbed to a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and plunged to her death. Law enforcement officials say the girl was "terrorized" by as many as 15 girls who ganged up on her and picked on her for months through online message boards and texts.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who investigated the tragic case, said Rebecca had a defeatist attitude and that her diary entries were heartbreaking. One of her computer screen savers showed Rebecca with her head resting on a railroad track.
Rebecca's case was not unknown to authorities. There were reported multiple interventions by the school, hospital, counselors, parents and the sheriff's office. Unfortunately, the interventions were not enough to keep her from giving up on life.
Thanks to professional staff trained to address school bullying in the community, however, interventions do work. Locally, Behavioral Health Associates in Weissport is one group that has presented anti-bullying initiative programs featuring officials from law enforcement and the mental health community.
Schools and the community at large are also engaged. This year, the Jim Thorpe National Bank and the Mauch Chunk Trust Company gave a pair of $500 donations to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (0BPP) at Jim Thorpe Area High School. The funds will help OBPP, a preventative program designed for all students, to purchase books and supplies for teachers to use when training students about bullying behavior and preventative measures during the 2013-14 school year.
It's also encouraging to see Pennsylvania lawmakers taking up a bill that would criminalize cyberbullying. Last Spring, the measure unanimously passed out of a House committee and now, the full body will consider it during the fall session.
Rep. Ron Marisco of Dauphin County, the bill's sponsor, said the legislation is long overdue.
"The consequences can be very devastating to a child," he said. "In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has characterized cyber bullying as an emergency public health problem."
Not everyone, is on board. The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union opposes the legislation, saying it's unconstitutional to censor free speech online just because it is mean-spirited and directed at a child.
Despite the initiatives against cyberbullying, the pressures facing young people today guarantee that this is a problem that has no easy solutions.
During a television interview, Rebecca Sedwick's grief-stricken mother, advised parents to be vigilant and be more interested in their children's activities.
"I don't know what I'm supposed to do next. I just lost my world," she said. "Don't ignore your kids if they seem fine – still check on them, because you don't know what's going on with them."
By Jim Zbick