In an interesting turn of events, nine youths have been charged in the suicide death of Phoebe Prince, the South Hadley, MA young woman who took her own life in February after being relentlessly bullied in school.
According to an article presented in The Boston Globe, six teenagers and three juvenile students were charged on March 29, 2010 with several felony counts, including statutory rape, violation of civil rights, criminal harassment, and disturbing a school assembly. It seems that the District Attorney of Northwestern, MA plans to make this bullying case a precedent case to try to change the bullying laws and punish the kids who conducted the bullying as criminals.
When this story first surfaced, the Superintendent of the South Hadley school had said that no one in the school system was aware of the bullying troubles that Prince was facing. But, with these charges, District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel was quoted as saying:
“The investigation has revealed that certain faculty, staff and administrators of the high school also were alerted to the harassment of Phoebe Prince before her death.” Also according to Scheibel, “prior to Phoebe’s death, her mother spoke with at least two school staff members about the harassment Phoebe had reported to her.”
Scheibel released further information about the bullying and harassment that Ms. Prince suffered on the days following up to her suicide. Scheibel was quoted as saying:
“From information known to investigators thus far, it appears that Phoebe’s death on January 14th followed a tortuous day for her, in which she was subjected to verbal harassment and threatened physical abuse. . . The harassment reported to have occurred that day in the school library, appears to have been conducted in the presence of a faculty member and several students, but went unreported to school administrators until after Phoebe’s death”
I will continue to follow this case as the court case is put together. If convicted, these young men and women and this case will represent a new precedent in punishment for youth’s that bully and harass another youth. It will certainly be an interesting case to watch and see the outcome. What’s most interesting is that these charges are brought, even though it is a suicide case. Much like the guns on school grounds laws that have been passed over recent years, there seems to be developing a zero tolerance for bullying on school grounds which is trickling over to true legal ramifications.