TAMPA — Casting herself as an advocate for bullying victims, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told supporters at a pre-inaugural event Saturday that she plans to work to prevent juvenile bullying during her second term.
"We are going to put an end to bullying in the state of Florida," Bondi, a Republican, said at the two-hour event, dubbed "an appreciation" party for family, friends, donors and other Republican supporters.
Bondi defeated Democrat George Sheldon and Libertarian candidate Bill Wohlsifer in November's general election. A formal inauguration and reception is set for Monday in Tallahassee.
Introduced by Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober as the first female attorney general in state history, Bondi spoke for about five minutes at a podium along the first base line in George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Temple Terrace native did not touch on hot-button campaign topics such as medical marijuana and gay marriage, which will be permitted in Florida starting Tuesday, but instead thanked the 250 to 300 people in attendance and promised to work to prevent bullying.
She did not offer specifics about her efforts, but said that as a prosecutor in Hillsborough County she sometimes encountered families affected by bullying, including children bearing the physical or psychological scars caused by it.
She said afterward that she would partner with groups, such as the Jacksonville-based Monique Burr Foundation, and contact school superintendents, parent organizations and others to raise awareness about the problem. She also said she hopes eventually to work with lawmakers to craft bills to tackle bullying, likely in 2016.
This year, she said, she wants to raise awareness about the problem, including the effect posed by cyberbullies. She said that children teased by classmates can encounter continued taunts after school on social media sites, making the problem worse.
"Social media is such a great thing for children, but it's also fraught with peril and they can't escape it. That's their lives, and once (online bullying) starts it snowballs," she said.
Bondi was preceded at the podium by actor Quinton Aaron, star of The Blindside, and Stacy Pendarvis, program director at Monique Burr, which trains school counselors to recognize and prevent bullying. Aaron, who runs his own foundation, said he regularly talks at schools and with parents about the problem.
Contact Rich Shopes at [email protected] or (813) 226-3368. Follow @richshopes.