After months of being bullied and harassed, Phoebe Prince took her life in January. Now nine teenagers are being charged in connection with her death.
Prince, 15, was a ninth-grader who had moved from Ireland to South Hadley, MA in September. The torture started almost immediately, and continued for months despite pleas to the school’s administration from both the teen and her parents. The bullying even extended beyond school grounds to Facebook and text messaging.
The teenager’s suicide on January 14 followed an especially brutal day, where she was verbally harassed and threatened throughout the day at school, and continued as she headed home, when someone threw a can at her from a passing car.
Six suspects -- four girls and two boys -- now face charges that include statutory rape, assault, violation of civil rights resulting in injury, criminal harassment, disturbance of a school assembly, and stalking. Three juveniles – all girls – face delinquency charges.
No charges are being filed against school officials, although the district attorney admits that the inaction of some adults at the school is troublesome.
Prince’s death and those of other bully victims has led Massachusetts lawmakers to adopt new, more stringent anti-bullying measures. Officials are now getting serious about the problem, insisting that what has often been written off as rites of passage in extreme cases may be punishable with jail-time.
What do you think? Is law enforcement taking it too far or is it about time bullies are punished more severely?
What can you do?
- If you ever see or experience bullying, report it immediately to someone you trust.
- Protect yourself! Check out the security setting on your facebook or myspace. Make sure you haven't put your phone number on the web.
- Your school not doing enough about bullying? Write to administrators demanding that they make punishment more severe. Include a petition signed by the student body.