Readers discuss sexting-related bullying that led to Ruskin girl's suicide
Update: The Today show is scheduled to report on Hope Witsell's suicide on Wednesday (Dec. 2). Hope's mother, Donna Witsell, will be flying to New York City to appear on the show and talk about "sexting", bullying and her daughter's death.
St. Petersburg Times reporter Andrew Meacham details a chilling account of the suicide of a 13-year-old Ruskin girl, Hope Witsell. A few days before her suicide, Hope had forwarded a nude photo of herself to a boy she liked — a practice widely known as sexting.
The image found its way to other students, who forwarded it to their friends. Soon the nude photo was circulating through cell phones at Shields Middle and Lennard High School. Her death is the second in the nation in which a connection between sexting and teen suicide can clearly be drawn.
Parry Aftab, a nationally known "cyberlawyer" who has appeared on Good Morning America and the Today show, says "sexting-related suicides are tracking the same way cyberbullying-related suicides are."
Hope's case is the second known sexting-related suicide in the country; The first received national attention after a high school senior girl killed herself after sending nude photos to her boyfriend.
Tampabay.com readers have posted more than 100 comments on Meacham's story, with many placing blame on school officials for their handling of Hope's case. Others encouraged parents to take more responsibility for their kids. Take a look at what some readers are saying:
"This is a clear case of bullying gone way too far, and school officials stand to the side and suspend a student. Instead, professional counseling -- including changing schools -- should have been in order which would have saved this teen's life." ~ EdRingwald
"Parents .. Take charge of your child's life, they only have one. While you can't protect them from everything you can probably do much better than you are now. Montior cell phone and computer usage. Don't be afraid to say no when they ask for things beyond their years." ~ Orlandojon
"Horrible situation. Certainly the school mishandled this at the end, and it sounds like they were not evenhanded in the way they dealt with things at the beginning. That is such a horrible age for kids. Their entire future is wrapped up in that toxic environment." ~ BlueFrog
"The first thing parents should do is get rid of a cell phone that takes pictures. Amazingly enough, kids don't need to be on the phone all the time." ~Mscolt1911