Waverly police tackle bullying in wake of Florida girl's suicide - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waverly police tackle bullying in wake of Florida girl's suicide

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WAVERLY (KWWL) -

A 12-year old girl killed herself after she was bullied.

Authorities believe a Florida girl was bullied relentlessly by several of her peers over social media before committing suicide earlier this week. Two of the peers now face felony charges in connection with the girl's death.

While the story gains national attention, law enforcement agencies in Iowa are working to make sure bullying doesn't get out of hand.

Waverly Police Chief Richard Pursell told KWWL on Wednesday that bullying cases cross his desk every few weeks.

"Every child's a bit different and every kid can't handle certain situations," said Pursell. "They may react differently."

Pursell said his department works closely with the Waverly-Shell Rock Community School District and parents to take a proactive approach to bullying.

He said all school districts are required to have an anti-bullying policy in place, but that unless the direct contact becomes harassing or threatening in nature, it usually doesn't quantify any criminal charges.

"Bullying becomes criminal when it meets the definition of harassment, and the harassment can either be done in person or it can be done via text, email, through the internet," Pursell said. "Of course, if there's any type of physical contact, then we would charge them with assault."

Pursell encouraged all parents to contact the police or school officials if they have any indication that their child might be the target of a bully.

He said that, in many cases, bullying situations can be solved without filing criminal charges by simply involving the students, their parents and school officials in an open conversation.

"If we can resolve it so it ends, then a lot of times parents won't follow through with criminal charges, and if we can handle it that way, it's great," he said.

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