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Parents: Daughter's alleged bullying 'out of character'

Oct. 17, 2013 at 9:15 AM ET

Video: Florida sheriff Grady Judd says the parents of a 14-year-old-girl arrested for bullying another student, who ended up taking her own life, should be charged for failing to monitoring their daughter’s online activity. Some legal experts say that unless it can be proved that the parents encouraged the behavior, a crime cannot be established. NBC’s Mark Potter reports.

A Florida sheriff who arrested an alleged teen bully said he wishes he could charge her parents, too. 

“I want to make sure that we do everything we can to send a loud message so parents have to pay attention,'' Polk County (Fla.) sheriff Grady Judd told TODAY Thursday. "At this point in the investigation, we don't have a criminal case against any parents. We wish we did.”

“Unless there's proof that the parents actively encouraged the bullying, there may be bad parenting, there may be moral responsibility, but there won't be a crime,’’ NBC legal analyst Kendall Coffey told TODAY Thursday.

On Monday, Judd ordered the arrest of two girls, ages 14 and 12, on charges of aggravated stalking of a minor after the older girl allegedly wrote a remorseless post on Facebook referring to the suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick on Sept. 9. The sheriff claims both girls bullied Sedwick physically and online until she took her own life. 

“On Saturday morning, the 14-year-old did something that was despicable on top of what she already did that was terrible,’’ Judd told Matt Lauer on TODAY Wednesday. “That was a post she put on Facebook, and that post said, ‘I know Rebecca is dead, and I don’t care.’ The words were much more graphic than that, or the letters were. So we looked at that and said, ‘She doesn’t get this at all.''

The 14-year-old who has been charged with a felony in the wake of a Facebook post referencing the suicide of a 12-year-old girl is not a bully, her family’s attorney told TODAY Thursday.

“She's a caretaker, and she's very comforting, and just loving to other kids, and the kids in the neighborhood, and she just socializes with a lot of people,’’ attorney Andrea DeMichael told TODAY.

DeMichael denied that the girl wrote the Facebook entry on Saturday, which read, ““Yes ik (I know) I bullied Rebecca nd she killed her self but IDGAF." 

The parents of the 14-year-old girl issued a statement through DeMichael. 

"My client and her family are deeply saddened by Rebecca's death and send their condolences to Rebecca's family. My client's parents, Jose and Vivian, are stunned at the events that have transpired. They feel that their daughter is a loving, caring, and supportive young girl with many friends. As parents, they encouraged open communication with their daughter about daily occurrences and regularly monitored her social activities on her cell phone and Facebook account.  

"Since they frequently monitored her and never observed these alleged messages, they did not see a problem to confront. Furthermore, they were unaware of misconduct at school regarding their daughter. If any of these issues had been brought to their attention they would have spoken to their daughter and remedied them to prevent situations like the one at hand. The alleged behavior is out of character for their daughter and they are attempting to deal with this as best as they can. As this case develops, they anticipate that the truth will come to light and their daughter's name will be cleared." 

Judd said the 12-year-old girl and her parents have accepted responsibility. The parents of the younger girl declined to speak with NBC News. 

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