Debbie Piscitella, the Florida mom who was recently arrested for choking a 14-year-old boy, told "Good Morning America" that when her 13-year-old daughter, McKenna, was cyber-bullied, she tried to get help from the school. She went to the School Resource Office and even called the police, but nothing was done. That lack of a response from administrators is one reason she "lost it," she told the morning show, after coming face-to-face with the boy who was tormenting her daughter. The incident happened at a mall back in May -- Piscitella approached the boy, yelled and strangled him and was later put in jail.
After the arrest, Piscitella's mug shot appeared across several news outlets coupled with headlines like "Mom arrested, accused of assault over Facebook comments." However, she made bail and this morning appeared on "Good Morning America," to express regret for her actions and share the rest of the story.
The boy, a freshman named Jon, posted comments about McKenna on Facebook that were extremely cruel and sexual, according to ksdk.com. While the particulars haven't been made public, Piscitella described them to "GMA" as being too inappropriate to share on television. She said that when the taunting took place, McKenna was so upset that she wanted to hurt herself. And, throughout the live interview, it was clear how much pain the young girl is still in -- she appeared teary-eyed and almost too choked up to speak.
Piscitella says seeing her daughter in pain is what enraged her at the mall. The boy said he wasn't going to stop bullying her daughter, and Piscitella lost her temper.
However, she admits that putting her hands around a boy's neck was out of line. "I wish there would have been another route I had taken... I don't go around doing that to children. I don't want to sound like I'm a huge monster," she said.
The boy's mother, Keysha Tipton, has a different wish. She told ksdk.com that Piscitella never spoke to the Tiptons directly. "I wish that somehow they would have tried to contact us. 'Cause then it would have been easier to not have this blow up into this huge thing," she told the news outlet.
Despite her actions, other parents have expressed sympathy for Piscitella. In a comment on The Huffington Post after the incident, Meryl Esping said, "I can understand exactly why this woman was so rage filled. Did she break the law? Yes she did. Is there a better way to have handled the situation? Probably, but at least she stood up for her kid and tried to protect them and in my book that makes her a hero." Over at Mommyish, Shawna Cohen said, "Violence is never the answer but, well, if someone did that to my child, I’d probably lose it, too."
But Joslyn Gray at Babble sees it differently. "When somebody messes with any of my kids, it’s hard not to envision myself turning into Drew Barrymore in 'Firestarter,' or punching the other kid in the throat or something," she wrote. "But I don’t. Because I’m an adult..."
Piscitella advised other parents in similar situations to go through the proper channels and urged them to monitor kids' online accounts as well.