Parents using stalking injunctions to fight online bullies

Filing court order may be best choice in many cases

ORLANDO, Fla. – Bullying can present itself as one of the most intimate forms of assault but for many teens it's carried out in the faceless cyber world of social media.

Until recently if the events happened outside of a school's jurisdiction, for example if it happened off school property or didn't affect the child's education, children and parents were left with few options to end the contact. 

But now parents are using existing stalking legislation in place of Florida's lack of specific laws to deal with bullying.

Florida HB 1099 was heralded in 2012 by advocates for domestic violence victims.

Many saw it as a much needed amendment to previously flawed stalking legislation.

The bill simplified the process for filing an injunction and it also addressed the role of electronic communication.

Carol Wick, director of Harbor House, a resource for domestic violence victims, says her office helps parents file injunctions on their child's behalf on a weekly basis.

"I think it's a very viable alternative to just the pain of watching your child get bullied and not be able to do anything about it," she said.

An injunction is a court order to avoid contact between individuals. Also called a restraining order.

Wick says if your child is being bullied on social media it's important to document everything. She says it's also important to show what you have tried to do to stop it.

A judge will ultimately decide whether to grant the injunction.

The ruling takes place in civil court so there will be no criminal record for the perpetrator unless the ruling broken. Criminal charges can then be filed.

"This is something that's an option for parent's who don't want to involve law enforcement," Wick continues, "they just want to make it stop, and I think this sends a very clear message that this needs to stop."

Filing an injunction is free. You can do so through the Clerk of the Courts.