Bullying

Parents fight cyberbullying with lawsuit

Jan. 27, 2014 at 11:20 AM ET

Video: The parents of one teenage victim of cyberbullying have filed a lawsuit against the alleged bullies and their parents over a controversial Instagram account that they say intended to humiliate their daughter and other students. NBC’s Janet Shamlian reports.

A Texas family is trying to fight cyberbullying in court.

Reymundo and Shellie Esquivel are filing a lawsuit this week against six of their teenage daughter’s schoolmates and their parents, alleging that the students created an Instagram account aimed at humiliating her and fellow classmates.

“When we opened up the web page on Instagram, we opened up Pandora’s box,” Shellie Esquivel told TODAY’s Janet Shamlian. “There was a picture of her and all these vulgar postings of her underneath the photograph.”

Some pictures on the account were normal and taken right from the pages of the victims, like the Esquivels’ daughter, a high school sophomore, but the page also featured explicit photos of other children.

"Some of them were topless photos of females, bottomless photos of males," Shellie Esquivel told TODAY.

The Instagram page attracted nearly 900 followers before it was shut down last week after the couple sought a retraining order.

“How many children is it going to take to commit suicide, to kill themselves, to hurt themselves … because of bullies out there? And the parents don't want to take responsibility,” Shellie Esquivel said.

The couple’s lawyer, Tej Paranjpe, said the goal of the lawsuit is to set a precedent, and put a chill on future bullying.

"The idea here is not any profit for this family,” he told TODAY. “The idea is just to make sure everything stops."

One legal expert told TODAY that he believes a case like this will send a message to other parents and students about cyberbullying.

"The idea that they now have to defend a lawsuit in court, I foresee it getting settled pretty quickly,” said David Schwartz, a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. “But I also foresee the lawsuit being used a mechanism and a vehicle to stop the conduct.”


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