The mother of a Polk County 12-year-old girl who says her daughter committed suicide after being bullied, filed a lawsuit Monday against those she believes were responsible for her daughter's death.
Officials say Rebecca Sedwick, of Lakeland, jumped to her death from an abandoned cement silo on September 9, 2013. Sedwick's mother says she was being harassed at school and was the victim of cruel text messages and internet posts.
“She just will never have the piece of mind that she needs in order to go on and carry a normal life,” said Matt Morgan.
Morgan is the attorney representing Sedwick's mother, Tricia Norman. Together, they filed the lawsuit against three parties: the Polk County School Board; a minor identified as G.S.; and Cemex Construction Materials.
The lawsuit states that the Polk County School School Board was negligent in its supervision during the 2012-2013 school year when Sedwick and one of the defendants identified as G.S. were students at Crystal Lake Middle School.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff states the school board had a duty to provide an educational setting that was safe, secure and free from bullying for all of its students. Norman claims the school board failed to adequately supervise the defendant, G.S., and protect Sedwick from a physical assault planned by G.S.
While the defendant, G.S., was not named in the lawsuit, a 14-year-old by the name of Guadalupe Shaw was arrested in October 2013 on felony charges of aggravated stalking after Sedwick's death. However, the charges were dropped in November.
The lawsuit states G.S.'s reckless behavior and conduct via social media led to Sedwick's death.
Cemex Construction Materials Florida, LLC. was the third party named in the lawsuit. The company owns the the cement plant where Sedwick jumped to her death.
Norman states in the lawsuit that the company failed to keep its grounds in a reasonably safe condition and also didn't secure dangerous areas of the property.
“With this lawsuit, we hope to let parents and children alike know that you can't torture another human being to death and get away with it. There will be repercussions for that type of action,” said Morgan.
The lawsuit filed in civil court shows Norman is suing for at least $15,000.
“This lawsuit is not about money. This lawsuit, the damages alleged are in excess of $15,000 but at the end of the day, what she's looking for is justice from the people she believes caused her daughters death,” said Morgan.
In response to the lawsuit, a representative with CEMEX sent the following statement to Local 6: “CEMEX has not yet received a copy of the lawsuit, and therefore cannot comment at this time. We were deeply saddened to learn about the events that led to Rebecca taking her own life, and we continue to extend our heartfelt condolences to Rebecca’s family.”
In a statement from the Polk County School Board, officials say they haven't been served with the lawsuit.
"At such time as the School Board receives service, we will carefully review the complaint and determine how to proceed," the statement continued. "The Polk County School District is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for its students. A system is in place for students, parents and others to report any suspected instances of bullying or harassment. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family and friends of Rebecca Sedwick."
Sedwick's mother held a news conference on Monday afternoon with her attorney and said the district should have done more to protect her daughter and they ignored her complaints.