Civil Lawsuits are Coming

In the wake of cases like Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old in Florida who committed suicide after being maliciously bullied on Facebook, parents are now seeking judicial remedy in civil courts.

After their 16-year-old daughter was bullied on Instagram, two parents are suing seven teens for libel along with all of their parents for negligence.

According to Houston attorney Tej Paranjpe, the parents in this recent case are pursuing the lawsuit partly on principle.

“We’re being super-aggressive about it because this behavior really needs to stop,” Paranjpe, lawer for parents Reymundo Esquivel and Shellie Tingle-Esquivel, told Yahoo Shine. “It’s really an issue of principle.”

The 16-year-old, who is not being named for privacy reasons, has been the target of bullying at Klein High School in Texas for around a year, Tingle-Esquivel said. After months of in-person bullying, the attacks came to a head online through Instagram.

Her daughter’s picture appeared on a page called “2014 Klein Hoes,” a student-made Instagram account that garnered around 900 followers. The photo appeared along with many pictures of many other girls, some of whom were topless in the images.

Tingle-Esquivel told Yahoo Shine that the 16-year-old’s photo was targeted with “vulgarities” and “explicit sexual comments.” The online backlash left her daughter “crying and really upset–almost hysterical.” 

Acting for her daughter and the other girls pictured on the cruel Instagram page, Tingle-Esquivel quickly retained Paranjpe, who got the page removed with restraining orders against the seven students involved.

The lawsuits are intended to make people aware of the problem and reduce cyberbullying.

“It’s to let kids know that this is not acceptable,” Tingle-Esquivel told Yahoo Shine.

The tactic of suing the students and parents connected to the incident is unusual, said Dr. Justin Patchin, criminal justice professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and co-director of the national Cyberbullying Research Center. 

(Jordan Ecarma, Auto World News – Jan 25, 2014)

Cyber Safety Cop Analysis:

I have predicted this, and have been speaking about it in both my student and parent class. Parents need to know that, “I didn’t know what was going on with my child’s Instagram account” is not a viable defense. Students need to know that it only takes one threat or rude message, picture, or comment to be liable if the intended recipient hurts or kills themselves. The financial consequences of a jury judgment could be devastating, especially when we see people getting multi-million dollar rewards for spilling hot coffee in their lap. Parents must be engaged in their child’s social media world.

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About the Author

Clayton Cranford
Clayton Cranford is a retired Sergeant from Orange County Sheriff's Department in California and owner of Total Safety Solutions LLC. Clayton is one of the nation’s leading law enforcement educators on social media, child safety, and behavioral threat assessments. Clayton is the author of the definitive book on cyber safety for families, “Parenting in the Digital World.” Clayton has more than 20 years of teaching experience and was awarded the 2015 National Bullying Prevention Award from the School Safety Advocacy Council, and the 2015 American Legion Medal of Merit. Clayton was a member of the County's Behavioral Threat Assessment Team, Crisis Negotiation Team, School Resource Officer program, and Juvenile Bureau.