Suicide from Cyberbullying In Massachusetts

Phoebe Prince

Phoebe Prince was a 15 year old Irish immigrant who had moved to Hadley, Massachusetts with her family. According to an article in The Boston Globe, Phoebe was often bullied by girls who called her nasty names and harassed her both in school and on the web social sites.  Again, according to The Boston Globe, on the day of her death, Jan. 14, 2009, Phoebe was walking home from school when bullies drove by in a car, hurling insults and an energy drink in her direction. Prince kept walking to her house, straight to her closet, and hanged herself.

To make matters worse, even after her death on the memorial page, the nasty comments continued to be posted. According to articles in the Boston papers, upwards of 30 kids from her school were being investigated in her death. One article goes on to quote a parent:

“Things like this aren’t supposed to happen in South Hadley,’’ said Darby O’Brien, a high school parent, wondering why the bullies who tormented Phoebe are still in school. “And so instead of confronting the evil among us, the reality that there are bullies roaming the corridors at South Hadley High, people are blaming the victim, looking for excuses why a 15-year-old girl would do this. People are in denial.’’

Having grown up in Massachusetts I was hopeful some of this has changed. But according to most of the articles, it hasn’t. The parents are outraged and the school seems to be covering up the matter. Of course the sad part is that a child is lost and no matter the outcome of what the school does for discipline, the parents will never get their daughter back.

CBS television is also reporting this case as it progresses and those that were the bullies are disciplined either in school or court.  The site Boston.com quotes some school officials as saying:

…The South Hadley School Committee will discuss antibullying policies at the town’s four schools. A system-wide review had been underway for 18 months, as instances of bullying crept into schools, officials said.

At the request of the Prince family, there will be no discussion of the girl’s death, said Edward Boiselle, the school committee chairman.

An 18 month review of an ongoing problem (ongoing as in for as far back as most remember) seems ridiculous. As they review, more children are victims and the result can be a suicide. To say that bullying crept into the schools is somewhat insulting. It’s been there for a long time and will continue to be there until laws or school policies are more direct at the punishments for these attacks. The only bright light is that these stories get more national attention now with the internet and one would hope that that alone would start to enact more change.

Here’s a video from the CBS News on the story: