Panama City has gained much attention after police in Florida have charged two 12-year-old middle school students with cyber stalking after one of the other students committed suicide because they were reportedly being bullied.
In a statement given on Jan. 23, the police said that 12-year-old Gabriella Green, who was also known as Gabbie, was found unresponsive at her home on Jan. 10. After she was taken to the hospital, doctors declared Gabbie dead. The medical examiner said that the girl had died from hanging herself.
During the investigation of this untimely death, the family and friends of Gabriella alerted police that they believe she had been a victim of cyberbullying. The police then searched the girl’s cell phone and her social media accounts in search of answers to her death.
This investigation led the police to interviewing the two children Gabbie knew.
The police did not disclose whether or not the suspects were present along with their lawyers at the time of the interviews. Their parents had given them permission to speak with the investigators.
The accused girl allegedly told the police that she had intended to cause some problems between Gabbie and another child from their school and had made derogatory comments both verbally and electronically, as per a police report.
“Her actions consisted of starting rumors of the victim having sexually transmitted diseases, vulgar name-calling ... and threats to 'expose' personal and sensitive details of the victim's life." The suspect had deleted those messages upon learning of the girl's death, police said.
The accused boy went on to say that Gabbie had texted him, saying that she was having a bad day and that she had attempted to hang herself. Police also say that her neck displayed marks that would indicate the truth to the boy's story.
During a video chat, she also reportedly discussed with the boy taking her own life. The boy claims he led her on, telling her, “If you are going to do it, just do it,” and then hung up on Gabbie.
The boy also said that he regretted the call, and did not reach out to any adults or authorities in order to seek help for Gabbie, said the police.
An officer further wrote that the actions of the other students caused Gabbie mental trauma, but the police also said that they did not find that cyberbullying was the cause of Gabbie’s death. "The investigation only revealed that cyberbullying was transpiring at the time of her death,” they said.
A statement was released by Ginger Littleton, the chairwoman of the board of Bay District Schools, where the students attended:
We cannot reiterate strongly enough the cautions and warnings that were delivered yesterday by the Panama City Beach Police Department. Let me assure you that each of us here today, and all of our administrators and staff in our schools, will continue to work with parents and students to help them understand the impact of our spoken and written words. This tragedy has not only forever impacted one family, but the hurt and pain is now being felt by multiple families. We will continue to do all we can to guide and teach our students about the dangers of bullying and social media.