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Young teens face very adult charges in bullying case

Residents across the nation are holding their breath along with those here in Florida as police continue their investigation into the death of a 12-year-old Lakeland girl after it was revealed that the girl may have committed suicide because of bullying. Now, the lives of two of the girl’s schoolmates hang in limbo as investigators with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office try to determine if the teens had anything to do with the case.

The teens, age 12 and 14, were arrested recently this month after investigators accused them of bullying the deceased girl. According to police reports, the two girls allegedly tormented the girl while she was at school and continued online harassment even after she had transferred to another school. Both were charged with aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony that could change the young girls’ lives forever if convicted.

While the two teens face serious criminal charges, litigation may not end there. According to the mother of the deceased 12-year-old, the teens’ parents and the middle school -- where the alleged harassment took place -- should also be held responsible for what happened. While no charges have been filed against the parents or school, the victims’ mother may choose to take civil action in the case down the road. This could mean more litigation in the future and potentially more negative consequences for the teens in the case.

When school-age children face adult charges such as the case above, they can suddenly find themselves in a situation beyond their years. It’s in situations like this that legal representation is highly advised so as to get a better understanding of a grown-up situation that can have very adult consequences in the end.

Source: USA Today, "Two girls arrested on bullying charges after suicide," Doug Stanglin and William M. Welch, Oct. 16, 2013

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