9 Teens Charged in Girl’s Bullying
Jim LiebeltJim Liebelt's Blog
- 2010 Mar 30
In January, I posted about a Massachusetts teen, Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide following months of bullying by classmates. Yesterday, Massachusetts authorities charged 9 teens who allegedly harassed the 15-year-old student in the months before her suicide. While we won't know the outcome of the prosecution for some months, it seems appropriate that law enforcement officials are charting a proactive course in dealing with extreme cases of bullying, one that might serve as a cautionary example to teens in the future.
Parents should also be mindful of
potential consequences of bullying, for both the bullied and the bully.
Parents who are aware that their child is being bullied or is bullying,
should take action to intervene.
With sharp words and a strikingly aggressive prosecutorial stance, authorities yesterday spelled out a litany of charges against nine teenagers accused of subjecting 15-year-old South Hadley student Phoebe Prince to months of tortuous harassment before she hanged herself in a stairwell at home.
Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel, who outlined the charges, also faulted officials at South Hadley High School, saying her investigation determined the girl's harassment had been "common knowledge,'' contradicting administrators' previous assertions that they had been unaware of problems until after her death.
Scheibel described in painful detail Prince's last day at school, saying that her investigation found the Irish immigrant was taunted in the hallways and bombarded with vulgar insults. As she studied in the library during lunch, the accused students allegedly hounded her openly while other students and a teacher looked on. The witnesses alerted school administrators only after her death.
"It appears that Phoebe's death on Jan. 14 followed a tortuous day for her, in which she was subjected to verbal harassment and threatened physical abuse,'' Scheibel said. "The events were not isolated, but the culmination of a nearly-three month campaign of verbally assaultive behavior and threats of physical harm.''
The nature of the charges — ranging from criminal harassment and civil rights violations to stalking and statutory rape — hints at a forceful strategy of taking many legal avenues in the pursuit of convictions, legal specialists said.
The vast majority of the bullying took place during the school day, Scheibel said, and online harassment played a secondary role.