A decision by a Florida sheriff to arrest two girls, ages 12 and 14, on felony charges for bullying classmate Rebecca Sedwick until she committed suicide has divided experts and reverberated far beyond the town where the tragic events unfolded, reports the Washington Post. Some experts said the arrests were a just response and will help draw attention to the problem of online bullying. Others questioned the use of criminal charges and argued that the arrests will only prolong the pain in this case.
Sue Scheff of Parent's Universal Resource Experts, a resource group for parents with troubled youth, said, “Hats off to the sheriff…I think parents need to wake up and be shaken up a little bit.” Others said arresting the girls might convey the opposite message. “The decision to charge them almost seems to take responsibility away from the adults,” said Nadine Connell, a criminologist at the University of Texas at Dallas. She said adolescents are too immature to understand the consequences of bullying, but that parents and school officials had an obligation to intervene earlier. “I think this is uncharted territory,” said Justin Patchin, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Patchin also questioned Judd's decision. “He wants to make a statement, He wants to let them know: 'If you do this, I'm going to come after you.' I just don't know if it's going to work.”