Last November, a Texas high school senior killed herself by shooting herself in the chest as her family begged her to stop. Family and friends say the heartbreaking act came after over a year of vicious phone- and cyberbullying.
The victim’s tormentors hid behind fake Facebook accounts and messenger apps. They harassed Brandy Vela, 18, for her weight and looks. Someone even went so far as to pretend to be the teenager online, creating multiple accounts soliciting sex. This resulted in an onslaught of embarrassing and harassing phone calls.
“Sometimes she wouldn’t sleep. She’d call me at night. She’d say, Dad I can’t sleep. My phone keeps ringing,” Vela’s father, Raul Vela, told KHOU reporters. “And nobody was willing to help. The help never came.”
Family members say Brandy had reported the bullying to both the police and school authorities but nothing came of it. Authorities told the teen that the messages were sent through untraceable applications. They encouraged her to change her phone number and delete her accounts. Steps she took, but the damage had gone too far.
On the last Tuesday of November, Brandy texted and emailed family members saying she loved them and she was sorry for everything. Worried, her parents and grandparents rushed home to find Brandy in her Texas City home with a gun pointed at her chest. The pleaded with her, but she couldn’t be persuaded.
“She said she’d come too far to turn back,” explained her father. “It’s hard when your daughter tells you to turn around. You feel helpless”
INVESTIGATIONS STARTING TOO LATE
Texas City police Capt. Joe Stanton says detectives are renewing their investigations in her case. Detectives are interviewing family, following up on several new tips, and contacting persons of interest.
A spokesperson for the teen’s school district, Melissa Tortorici, says the community is “devastated”. She explains, “Today’s young adults and teenagers have grown up with technology and they have access to it 24/7. Many times they become very bold over technology and text things they would never say directly to someone’s face.”
Teenagers themselves agree. According to dosomething.org, 81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than in-person bullying. Nearly 43% of kids are victims of online bullying, and a whopping 90% of teens have seen social media bullying but ignored it.
Yet, cyberbullying is a punishable crime and as such, the biggest asset anyone has to stop this type of bullying is the threat of legal action. Parents and victims of it should send a letter to teachers, school, and principles outlining the issues and concerns. Include an emphasis on why the school and school district must immediately step in and investigate. The local police department should likewise be notified and sent a copy of the letter.
Lawsuits are also applicable, alleging causes of action that include, but are not limited to, assault and battery, emotional distress, civil conspiracy, defamation, harassment, negligence, and fraud. Teachers, school authorities, and school district authorities who fail to act properly or otherwise protect a student from bullying after being placed on notice may also be included as defendants in certain cases.
Only by taking such action, will cyberbullies be held accountable and this epidemic finally stop.
If you have been the victim of bullying, and your school district or police have failed to properly investigate, please contact us for a free case review.