Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


The lonesome death of Phoebe Prince

posted by Rod Dreher

Prosecutors in Massachusetts have taken the unusual step of filing felony charges against nine teenagers who allegedly bullied 15-year-old Phoebe Prince so badly that she hanged herself. Good on those prosecutors. If these kids are convicted, I hope they all go to jail for the maximum time allowed under law, and that they don’t serve one second less than their complete sentence for what they did to that poor girl.
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But they are not the only ones who bear moral guilt here. From the Times:

Appearing with state and local police officials on Monday, Ms. Scheibel said that Ms. Prince’s suicide came after nearly three months of severe taunting and physical threats by a cluster of fellow students.
“The investigation revealed relentless activities directed toward Phoebe to make it impossible for her to stay at school,” Ms. Scheibel said. The conduct of those charged, she said, “far exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship-related quarrels.”
It was particularly alarming, the district attorney said, that some teachers, administrators and other staff members at the school were aware of the harassment but did not stop it. “The actions or inactions of some adults at the school were troublesome,” Ms. Scheibel said, but did not violate any laws.

A faculty member and several students watched the harrassment she endured in the library on the day of her death. Nobody reported it to the administrators. The DA said that Phoebe’s harassment was “common knowledge” among the student body, and that some faculty and staff knew about it — Phoebe’s mother even spoke to staffers about what her daughter was suffering. The DA added that some students did report the bullying, but nothing was done.
Why would adults in charge of that school allow Phoebe Prince to be tortured like that, day in and day out, without stepping in to defend her? Why did they abandon her to her tormentors? I tell you, those teachers, administrators and staffers who saw what was happening but did not exercise their authority to stop it disgust me more than the “Lord of the Flies” cretins who did the torture in the first place. When I think about the bullying I endured in high school, the most indelible image on my mind is being pinned to the floor and tortured in a hotel room on a school trip, and the two adult women chaperones in the room literally stepping over me, lying there screaming for them to help me, as they left the hotel room. The kids doing the bullying were the cool kids; I was not. They, I guess, didn’t want to be on the bad side of the cool kids. I’ve thought about this a lot over the past three decades, and that’s the only explanation that makes sense.
It’s an old human story, and a foul one every time it is told. This terrible story from a Massachusetts public school should remind us all that it is in our social nature to stand by with our hands in our pockets while the powerful exploit the weak, and even hound them to death. As we see in this case, rules and procedures mean little or nothing without men and women willing to enforce them. What must it have been like for Phoebe Prince, walking into school every day, knowing that she had no defenders, and that the men and women whose mission it was to protect her and keep order did not care? What must her parents, Irish immigrants, think today, having been so grievously failed by the school to which they had entrusted the care of their daughter? It will not bring Phoebe back, but I devoutly desire for this girl’s family to sue the hell out of that school district, to exact some measure of retribution against the administrators who declined to act with common decency and stop the torture of their child at the hands of teenage sadists.
We are asked by some to empathize with the Catholic bishops who routinely did little or nothing to protect Catholic children from molester priests. They were given bad advice by psychologists, it is claimed. Besides, others are guilty of the same thing, and anyway, this anger should be understood as part of an agenda pursued by “the Church’s enemies to cripple it, morally and financially.” If supporters of the school whose administrators allowed Phoebe Prince to be driven to suicide by her abuse — as were the five, yes, five young Catholic men in Kansas who were victims of a pederast priest shielded by the diocese — defended those in charge of the school by saying they didn’t protect Phoebe because they had been given bad advice, or are no more guilty than the Church or anybody else, or are themselves the victims of people who have an anti-public school agenda, people would laugh them off the stage. They would say: “A child in your care was destroyed by packs of ravening wolves you could have stopped but did nothing to stop, and you have the audacity to whine about unfair treatment in the media?”
Those in authority at Phoebe Prince’s school who knew what was being done to her but who let it happen may not be criminally guilty (so says the DA), but they are morally culpable in her death. They deserve the contempt of the public, and the harsh judgment of the parents of the other children entrusted to their care. We cannot always stop every instance of cruelty and exploitation, but in a situation like this, all that was required to protect the weak from the strong was basic human decency. Those gutless authority figures — in schools, in police departments, and everywhere else – who don’t have it invite Nemesis. “What do you mean by crushing my people, and grinding down the poor when they look to you?” says the Lord God of hosts (Isaiah 3:15).
But then again, the faculty and administration of South Hadley High School, because they aren’t successors to the Apostles, must naturally be held to a higher standard in such matters.



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Anonymous

posted March 30, 2010 at 11:44 am


This is partly why I’m homeschooling this year. Our nonverbal son was entering middle school. Elementary had an open door policy toward me. Middle school did not.
School staff almost invariable have a problem telling the truth. Their perceptions are so shaded by their commitment to keeping their job and their comfortable work environment that they cannot even allow themselves to be critical of other staff. I don’t believe they would report any abuse of my son to me unless incontrovertible physical evidence was left on him.
I think giving them “tenure” has something to do with it–which is a similar security granted by the Catholic church to their hierarchy. That job security through an institution creates bad dynamics, somehow–a really unhealthy level of indebtedness, or something.



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Helen

posted March 30, 2010 at 11:54 am


Oh that poor girl. And her parents, her sister. So awful. I was bullied as a kid, but not in high school, and not to this degree. This I just can’t imagine.
I wonder how it feels to be the parent of those kids who drove this girl to her death. I would feel so much shame.
Amen to Rod’s post on this.



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Mac S.

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:00 pm


I have kept an eye on this heart-breaking case and I am glad to see charges filed. While high school years often bring some hard learned lessons around socialization the “mean girls” psyche is more the rule rather the exception nowadays (granted, my conclusion is based on anecdotal evidence). The blame for the attitude/behavior of these girls and their male counterparts lies with the those who parented them BUT the blame for allowing the continuous verbal and physical attacks is on the school officials who witnessed it and did nothing.
Supposedly these girls were athletic and popular and from wealthy families in a “haves” versus the “have nots” type of town where the haves used their influence to protect their little darlings. That may shed some light on why the school administrators did little to help a transfer student/Irish imminent girl but it is not a justification.



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Lin

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:17 pm


I think this whole ordeal is messed right up. I’m 19 year old girl and i won’t lie i have been mean to younger people. But when they did or said something to my little sister. I think that school should expel student if they are repeatedly bullying. To stop it before it gets to far. I know when i was younger like 15 i was badly bullied as well and the worthless principle said there was nothing he could do but “talk to the girls” unless they put their hands on me. I’m out of school now but my little sister isn’t she is almost in high school and little girls are mean. No strike that they are vicious.The school systems very badly need to figure out something to do to help prevent this.



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Antonius Magnus

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:20 pm


My wife and I homeschool our son for many reasons, but one one of the most prominent reasons is the lack of action on the part of many (not all) school officials when it comes to bullying–and the two-faced approach to it as well, where the administrators take great pains to issue press releases and declare the “zero tolerance” policy towards this kind of viciousness on the part of middle and high school age kids while ignoring children who are being tormented right in front of them, as in the case of this poor child.
I was bullied, and as a boy,I was told by EVERYONE (parents included) that I should just “suck it up” and deal with it, which included the intimation that I should fight back. When I did, I was suspended from school for fighting. That is why I am so opposed to anything that smacks of bullying even today, as a grown man.
My point is, there is something more here that mere abuse of “unpopular” children. There is a very stratified and reactionary class system that our kids are learning from…somewhere. Us, television, Disney, …somewhere. I have noticed that many kid’s shows aimed at this age group on the Disney channel and Nick do subtly (and not so subtly) endorse the abuse and general scorn towards the ungainly, the nerdy, and the awkward children by the dynamic, pretty and always tastefully dressed main characters. This is why I discourage my kids from watching this trash (that and Walt’s anti-semitism).
What were the circumstances? The new girl dated someone that three or four other kids thought she shouldn’t date, and then tormented her because of it? Where did these kids get the idea that that was acceptable?



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Leah

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:25 pm


I am going to talk about this story with my husband and sons around the dinner table tonight.
They wanted an ocean between Phoebe’s final resting place and the girls who hounded her to her death.
My heart aches for those parents.



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Your Name

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:28 pm


The parents of these girls and boys should be ashamed of raising such
uncaring children. I hope that they are severly punished for what they
did,although no amount of Punishment will bring Phoebe back.
The adults who witnessed this harrasment should also be punished,so
laws need to be changed to make these teachers accountable for their
indifference.



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MCGRUFF

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:31 pm


This is just tragic to the core. I remember being picked on in Jr. High for being Asian in a predominately white school. It wasn’t easy and I took some major abuse but I do not think to the level these kids took it. Main reason was that it wasn’t internet friendly back in 1985. We didn’t care of Social Networking. Some of the videos I have seen of Teens beating each other up and posting it on YouTube is such a shame.In some of those videos I didn’t even see anyone saying to stop the fight or intervening. GROW some and step up to what is RIGHT!
I would be ashamed for being the teachers and the adults in that school for not seeing this coming! They just don’t want to get involved. Being an Educator doesn’t mean adhering to the course curriculum and ignoring what is around you. Teachers WAKE UP you are sometimes more involved in the students daily lives than you realize. Open up your eyes and hearts once in a while. Speak up and fight the litigious system that holds many teachers back from showing care. I was hugged, had long talks with the principles, protected by bigger kids than me from my teachers and faculty. I know it wasn’t a SUE happy time back then but when money/publicity seeking Attorney’s win we all lose.
I can’t say that i hope its a wake up call because this is not the first and it won’t be the last. We have taken too many steps back and we need to start running to catch back up people. This poor girl didn’t deserve this and it could have at least been addressed earlier on.
To everyone else – PLEASE take some time help others that have less than you, are weaker than you and can learn from you. If we just take an extra 5 mins to help others and not become desensitized by the media we can make a difference.
This news has hit home with me as I have experienced some of her pain and I was fortunate enough to survive. Not everyone will be so lucky.
These kids will live with their actions but that doesn’t bring her back to her friends and family. We are only given one life and we need to make the best of it. Go out today and contribute to society and help your fellow man. A simple opening of the door, a kind hello, a smile when you pass someone or to lend a quick hand to those that could use it. Is that so difficult? I still do it even thought I have had a lot of no one thanking me. It doesn’t matter because when those that do say thank you it was worth all the nothings that I got before then.
PEACE..



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truth

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:37 pm


I was a girl bullied like that and worse in school. I wanted to kill myself. When I ended up going to mental hospitals for several terms of high school, I was the crazy one and it was even worse. My parents and social workers were making me go back to that school for senior year, and it started again immediately the morning of the first day of school.
I ended up getting a GED (this was with good grades, 32 ACT score, etc) and going to a community college. I remained shattered and scared of groups of people my own age, and thing like going to classes, probably until I was 20 years old. It took me years to put together something of a life.
Not one person ever came to my defense. Every friend I had abandoned me so they wouldn’t have to share in being bullied. It went on daily for 3.5 years before I ended up in the mental hospital. I think it seems kids are killing themselves more commonly. If I had to live it over again I can only think that I would.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:38 pm


What we see playing out in the Church is what we see playing out all over society (it’s only worse in the Church because of what the Church is, or claims to be). It’s “Lord of the Flies” and adults are often culpable. There is something dark in us that hates a weakling. I remember in fourth grade, a sweet but hyperactive boy from Nebraska moved to our town. I was among those cruel to him. He didn’t talk like us, so he was a marked man, so to speak. When my parents overheard me talking on the phone to a friend about how mean we’d been to Johnnie that day, they shamed me, and shamed me hard about my behavior. That ended that. And my own experience of bullying taught me how unwilling some adults can be to go against the popular sentiment. As Anonymous above said, those in authority are often so concerned about keeping their own comfort and security that they won’t rock the boat, no matter what.



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Herb Finn

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:39 pm


The administators and faculty that could have prevented this should also be charged … “depraved indifference”



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Karl G

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:40 pm


“It’s an old human story, and a foul one every time it is told. This terrible story from a Massachusetts public school should remind us all that it is in our social nature to stand by with our hands in our pockets while the powerful exploit the weak, and even hound them to death.”
And that’s just half the story. Because those standing around are not inactive- they’re convincing each other that the victim was at fault for the treatment. That she should have fought back, that she shouldn’t have provoked them, that she should have known better than to act in a certain way around them, that the victim will never learn to stand up for herself if they help her, etc… Anything to provide moral rationalization for that inaction or even support of the bullies.



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Betty Shughrue

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:43 pm


I’m a retired teacher, having retired in 2002 from a public school in Texas. When I was still teaching, we were required to report any suspected cases of abuse and/or bullying at home or at school. However, it would seem that common sense and human compassion would compel ANY adult to respond to protect a child from the hurtful things other teens seem capable of doing. At the VERY least, the parents of the offending teens should have been made aware of what their children were doing and the school should have taken steps to protect girl. Shame, shame, shame on all involved directly or peripherially.



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Franklin Evans

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:43 pm


From an article quote: …didn’t violate any laws. [Referring to the school staff.]
It’s time we all stepped up and faced the real problem, the elephant in the room that has long since buried us in sh*t: Teachers, admins and staff are de facto responsible for the students in their schools, and it was parents who went about tying their hands with complaints and lawsuits.
My Johnny wouldn’t do that… the common stereotyped refrain that hides the actual thoughts underneath.
My Johnny made a mistake, and I don’t want it to jeopardize his college prospects.
My Johnny is a good, strong boy who will be a leader some day.
Only I/we get to punish Johnny, and anyone who violates my/our territory is automatically wrong.
Certainly, there are examples of (egregious) moral failure in the schools. What I want to see, what I demand be given the harsh light of reality, is the role parents played and play in that failure: Teaching their children that they will never suffer the consequences of their actions, even if it takes the parents being bullies themselves.



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Betty Shughrue

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:44 pm


I’m a retired teacher, having retired in 2002 from a public school in Texas. When I was still teaching, we were required to report any suspected cases of abuse and/or bullying at home or at school. However, it would seem that common sense and human compassion would compel ANY adult to respond to protect a child from the hurtful things other teens seem capable of doing. At the VERY least, the parents of the offending teens should have been made aware of what their children were doing and the school should have taken steps to protect girl. Shame, shame, shame on all involved directly or peripherially.



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Brian

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:44 pm


I agree with many points in your post. So often as adults, we tell children of the importance of being accountable – to God, to the law, to your fellow man. Yet those are easy words until being accountable means stepping down from your job, losing money and prestige and other material things of this world. Then, too many times we allow children to see the hypocrisy of our words, when our material desires distort our moral choices. This school system is morally ill, and it won’t get better with the same people in charge.
I’ve seen many adults, particularly teachers, who as you say try to be buddies with the sports stars, the cool crowd, the good looking girls, and it makes my skin crawl. Its like they feel cool themselves if they turn the other way during a transgression by one of the cool kids. I want to say, “snap out of it, be an adult, enforce the rules, and stop picking favorites.”
Oh, by the way, I am Catholic and I love my faith. I do see progress in the Church in dealing with the sins of the clergy, and I pray that we will remove those who cannot walk in the light of Christ.



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sigaliris

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:48 pm


My point is, there is something more here that mere abuse of “unpopular” children. There is a very stratified and reactionary class system that our kids are learning from…somewhere. Us, television, Disney, …somewhere. I have noticed that many kid’s shows aimed at this age group on the Disney channel and Nick do subtly (and not so subtly) endorse the abuse and general scorn towards the ungainly, the nerdy, and the awkward children by the dynamic, pretty and always tastefully dressed main characters.
I think Antonius Magnus has absolutely nailed it here. I would go further and say that bullies enforce a class system that everyone, grownups included, tacitly believes in. Adults don’t interfere because they think the victims of bullying really deserve it. They should know better than to be fat, skinny, homely, badly dressed, physically or mentally challenged, poor, gay, or of whatever ethnic group/skin color is in the minority. If they can’t help being those things, the least they can do is shut up and know their place. Which basically means becoming invisible. Many a child, myself included, would have loved to become invisible, if only we’d known how. Dying is the next best thing. Many of the adults involved think the bullies are teaching their victims a valuable lesson about their place in the world. Stupid, ugly, unfashionable, inconvenient people NEED to learn that they are not wanted. The lesson must be hammered home that status and possessions are what make you special and give you a right to exist in this world. Thus heartless adults delegate the bullying to their children, and the cycle continues. It’s not a bug–it’s a feature.



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Karl G

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:52 pm


I forgot to add- the critical point here is that this is just at its most obvious with school bullying. For most here, it’s easy to talk a big game about how the teachers/administrators should do this or that to fix the problem, but how many are willing to take good hard look at how they fall into the same pattern in their own lives, ignoring, justifying, or even supporting less immediately obvious abuses?
This isn’t just a school problem- this basic problem exists all over society, but it’s hard to face for all the same reasons.



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truth

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:53 pm


I was a popular girl who fell from the grace of the pack. It’s not only the misfit kids who end up this way. I wonder if some of them might have an even easier time of it, because they actually have years of forming something of an independent, stronger, self identity than you do when you’re happy, popular, shallow, have all your fabulous friends and fabulous social position in the school.
When I began to attract attention from the boys – I was a pretty girl and very comfortable and friendly with boys because I had brothers – the popular girls banded together to make me an outcast. The boys then followed this cruelty in order to have favor with all the girls. I was just one. It is the way of animals, eliminate a threat to the group. People are animals. We need something to control our bad qualities and encourage and grow our virtues. This bullying problem grows worse with the decay of the rest of society. Makes perfect sense.



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Roberta ONeill

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:57 pm


What a lovely young girl…just 15 years (so young!)…who will never experience prom, find the love of her life, marry, and feel the joy of home and family. It’s so sad!
My heart goes out, to Phoebe’s bereaved family, left to endure such a tremendous loss!
It’s incomprehensible!! that 9 young people, who have much; a full, rich life, would waste their time, and human existence! by tormenting another human soul…due to jealousy, or spite.
One beautiful soul is dead, and nine more are being charged with a felony offense. The nine tormentors families’ are torn asunder, too …for what?
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR YOUNG?
Callous indifference,(coupled with no remorse) and lack of impulse control, must STOP!
If it doesn’t stop, via proper training, guidance, and discipline, we are headed for very dangerous times, indeed. We MUST have the courage to ACT!! when we see a situation that is blatantly wrong!
Be persistent! Be willing! to be labeled a pain-in-the-butt, but DO SOMETHING!



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:05 pm


And people look at homeschoolers incredulously, asking “But what about socialization?”
Indeed.



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Mark

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:07 pm


Every teacher and administrator involved with this tragedy should be fired and banned from any sort of contact with children. Why? Because they OBVIOUSLY have no idea how to deal with children and have forgotten what it was like to be tormented and bullied as children.
If a child can be punished for bringing aspirin to school or EXPELLED for bringing scissors to school, then why can’t teachers and administrators be fired for being STUPID! We trust out kids to these idiots and wonder why things like this happen.
Teenagers are still children because they only see things in the moment. As adults, we are expected to think things through and understand what consequences may result from our actions.



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Elizabeth Rose

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:08 pm


I left a career as a Marketing Specialist to get my teaching certificate at age 53. I have made up my mind that nothing like this will happen on my watch, I will certainly get involved.
This girl’s parents need to file civil suits against all of these little monsters’ parents, as well as the teachers and administrators individually, and as a school system. I am ashamed of these so-called adults in whom so much trust was placed, and who raised and taught pure evil.



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Rolando

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:14 pm


I agree with all that has been said but what I am not seeing is the responsibility and partial blame that needs to be placed on the shoulders of the parents of these bullies. The first line of defense should always be the parents. Where were they in all this? Nowhere is there any discussion about the culpability of these teenagers parents and how they should be held accountable for their childrens crimes.



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Dad

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm


My daughter went through a bad case of school bullying a few years back, and tried the same escape route. She was not successful, thank heavens, although it has been a long couple of years in recovery. My heart aches for Phoebe’s parents and family.
We live in an affluent town in the North East. Sadistic and dysfunctional behavior among teenage girls seems to be part of normal behavior now. The bullying was almost banal – many small, cruel acts over a long-time, with a few big set-piece events thrown in. It was a steady grind for my dear daughter, whose faith in pretty much everything took a beating. It’s an old story – ring-leaders, the enabling of fellow students who hoped they wouldn’t be the victim, and authority figures who are clueless or don’t care or feel unable to take action. Often, in my probably jaundiced opinion, authority figures identify with the bullies more than the victims. And the last ingredient – parents (my wife and I) who didn’t realize exactly how bad it was.
More recently, when my younger daughter started to experience something similar, we of course took immediate action, raising the issue with the school frequently and demanding action. As part of that my elder daughter, the one who had been bullied, went into meet with the school principal and social workers, and explained exactly how it all works. It starts young, a lot of it is under the radar, and it’s often “the good kids” who are the worst offenders. We had a momentary feelgood moment, with everyone applauding my daughter’s courage and promising to be more vigilant in future. This lasted about five minutes. And then it was back to BAU. The problem is endemic and deep-rooted.
So if you have kids going into Middle School or Junior High, be vigilant and really watch out for your kids being bullied, especially girls. But bullying isn’t obvious, and it isn’t Hollywood. Watch for a steady stream of difficult days and incidents which individually may not seem so bad, but collectively add up to a huge burden on a developing psyche, especially if the kid tends to the meeker side. My daughter was bullied by her supposed best friends. And watch out for your kid becoming a bully, especially if they are “popular”, and most especially if they are girls. And finally, push yor kids to stand up for victims, to not be enablers. Just based on the numbers, there are more enablers than ring-leaders or bullies. More kids standing up for victims and shaming bullies would really help.
We sent my daughter off into the world with what we believed was good advice – look the for the good in people, turn the other cheek, follow the golden rule, etc. Happy slappy. But the truth is that kids in these early school years can be incredibly mean, downright evil, and the adults in the schools may not be particularly helpful. You have to prepare them for going into the real environment they will face, not the one you would like them to be in. I believe that direct legal action against individual bullies and school administrators who don’t take the problem seriously is a good way forward. It’s sad that it has come to that, and this is of course reflective of a deeper rot in our communities. But arrest and punishment will probably work more effectively to get people’s attention than an anonymous note to the “bully box”.
God Bless



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JackDeth

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:22 pm


I hate to say it, but we as a society have brought this upon ourselves to a very great degree. We have desensitized ourselves. All the liberal-minded thinking will destroy us. Those same liberals that are complaining that teachers don’t step in and do more are the same ones that want laws preventing teachers from disciplining students. If a teacher even lays a single hand on a students shoulder they will be sued for sexual harassment and be put in jail. I read about a teacher who pulled a larger student off of another student during a fight and the teacher got sued for assaulting the larger student! Where the hell is the logic in that? Those teachers could give the students a good firm talking-to, but let’s be honest, would it really have curbed them from harassing this poor girl? I highly doubt it. Students KNOW that the teachers have no real power and cannot do a damn thing and they take advantage of that fact. I can completely understand it if the teachers are afraid to try and do anything, especially if their own jobs and freedom are on the line. I totally agree with Antonius’ viewpoint regarding Disney and Nick. You are spot on about that too. While I feel that other students were completely in the wrong in how they treated her, that doesn’t make them accessories to “verbal murder” or anything. They are kids, pure and simple. Many kids have become mean and self absorbed. They are a product of poor parenting brought on by our our own country’s steady decline of moral values which has been brought on by messed up liberal thinking. In the end, this poor child killed herself – no one did it to her. This is what happens when you don’t teach kids the PROPER meaning of “free speech”. This is what happens when you don’t teach kids respect. This is what happens when parents don’t take a more active role in their children’s lives. This is what happens when you take away teacher’s ability to do anything. This is what happens when you take God out of our schools and public places.



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Your Name

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:23 pm


What I have taught my child, a strong, intelligent, socially astute child, is to defend those who do not have the gifts he has. He has been taught that it is his spiritual and moral obligation to do so.
Once there was a boy in school who was different. He was awkward and sewed his own clothes. My child stood up for him and defended him and befriended him. I was very proud that day.
Yet I worry. My child has grown popular. And sarcastic. And very gifted at spotting emotional weakness.
I can give him guidance. I can remind him of his obligation to protect others in need. We will definitely discuss this tragedy. But he is only one child, who may or may not choose to heed the warning.
Without clear laws to protect children like Phoebe, I fear this kind of incident will repeat itself. I am willing to press for such laws.



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Your Name

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm


This is a problem that has gotten out of control over time and I believe it began when the school administrators were stripped of the authority to punish children. I grew up in a school where the principal had a wooden paddle with holes. He was not afraid to use it if necessary. As a result of knowing what would happen to you, we had no problems with bullying. Children today are so desensitized to reality thanks to the less than wholesome tv shows that have no value whatsoever, the video games on the market and the fact that many parents really don’t care what their children do. This younger generation has a “what’s in it for me” mentality. I wish I was in a position to home school my children, however due to our current economy, our current elected official and the uncertain future we face, I am unable to do so. I’m waiting for “that change” at the next election.
Shame on the administrators who sat by and did nothing to help this young girl. Kudos to the prosecutors who are bringing charges against them and standing up for Phoebe. Shame on the parents of the spoiled rotten brats who bullied this young girl, what kind of children are you raising? Seems to me these kids were just jealous of Phoebe. As my experience has taught me, those who pick on you do it to make themselves feel better. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Phoebe Prince. I am so sorry for your loss.



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The decadence of human society

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm


After 8 years of torture, all through middle school and high school, for which there was never ever really a reason, I’ve learned one thing…Revenge, is sweet.
And don’t tell me I’m wrong, God help your soul, for after being driven to a morbid crying ball of shit every night, I thank the Gods for giving me the perseverance to never having resorted to ending my life.



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Hector

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm


Poor girl. If she had lived three more years she could have escaped all this, but three years seems like a lifetime when you’re 15. I hope that she’s with God now, and that her sufferings have been recompensed.
“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your
servant Phoebe. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of
your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your
own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy,
into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the
glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.”



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MH

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm


I was bullied pretty badly in middle school and I know the teachers were aware of it. My parents spoke with the administrators, but nothing was done. I ended up without friends because to be my friend was to risk being bullied too. It ended because a sudden growth spurt gave me a physical advantage. This still ranks up there as one of the worst experiences of my life.
So when I heard about this news story I felt bad for the girl, I understand how this happens, and how lonely the victims feels.



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Kristen Y

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:36 pm


I had a close girlfriend of mine kill herself due to being bullied because she didn’t look the same as other girls. she was a taller and bigger girl than all the other but loved just the same. I have often wondered over the years what things would have been like for her had things turned out differently. I miss her greatly, and I now have a young son of my own and I pray that I can teach him the warning signs and also the proper way to treat someone. Noone deserves to be treated this way! My heart goes out to this Family!



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stari_momak

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm


Two things are interesting to me in this story. First, the girl was Irish. She looks very caucasian American — like she could be a little Eyetalian, a little WASP, etc. But know she was Irish.
The second is the lack of the phrases and words “hate crime”, “xenophobia” , ‘anti-immigrant’, ‘immigrant-bashing’, racist, tolerance (lack thereof), and so on. Here we have an immigrant hounded to death and yet because she is a of European background, her crime doesn’t get all those extra sexy embellishments, nor are their pronouncements from the local ADL, the governor, the President.
[Note from Rod: Oh, come on, stari. There is no evidence that race or ethnicity was a component of her bullying. In fact, judging by the names of her accused tormentors, she was a white girl bullied by white people. Don't know many black, Hispanic or Asian kids named "Flannery". -- RD]



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm


“But then again, the faculty and administration of South Hadley High School, because they aren’t successors to the Apostles, must naturally be held to a higher standard in such matters.”
You’re losing it Rod.
Having worked with children savaged by wolves from all quarters, a child’s needs are the same whether they are in a Catholic Church, Protestant Church, Synagogue, Mosque, Temple, public school, scout camp, home, etc.
Insisting on higher standards in some quarters, and spending a disproportionate amount of time and focus on those quarters leaves children in other quarters more vulnerable and exposed. It isn’t arguing, “but the other guys are guilty too…”
It’s arguing for the protection of ALL children, which brings down the law and social opprobrium on all predators, wherever they may be. That doesn’t let Rome OFF the hook, but rather places a great many others ON the hook as well. Too bad for children like Phoebe that we have an assinine dialogue about those being entrusted with their care being held to higher or lower standards because of the predator’s identity and not the child’s needs.
Call me hyperpartisan again if you will. It’s just a shame that you can’t accept at face value my advocacy for all children based on their needs and not the perpetrator’s identity.



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Mac S.

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm


This isn’t just a school problem- this basic problem exists all over society, but it’s hard to face for all the same reasons.
The “mean girl” high school type drama is also alive and well in some workplaces. Ignoring it and acting professionally can embolden them to do more drastic things (planting or stealing things from offices, guessing computer passwords, flat out lying to HR,etc)- I saw it happen. Often those targeted were deemed weaker or “in the way” of someone who craved administrative kudos and/or attention. These were grown women.
It embarrassed me to see a handful of (not all) professional women, many of them mothers, act like immature brats. But if these are the mothers….



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Richard Barrett

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm


Being the Fat Kid and the Smart Kid, I was bullied mercilessly during elementary school and junior high. Here’s how the conversations typically went between my parents and teachers or administrators:
“We want how our son is being treated to stop.”
“Well, we can’t do anything about it.”
“Then we’re going to tell him to fight back.”
“School rules do not allow fighting, even in self-defense. He will be suspended or expelled if he does that.”
“So what is he supposed to do?”
“Tell one of us when something happens.”
“But you just said you can’t do anything about it!”
“And we can’t. But that’s what he needs to to do, not fight back. Either come to us, or just ignore it. Those are his options.”
What it boiled down to was that the system, at least when I was in school, was intended to maximize conformity; it was a foregone conclusion that bullying was going to happen and that there wasn’t anything teachers or administrators could or would do to stop it. From their perspective, it was more efficient to put the burden on the victim to not provoke bullying behavior than to hold those doing the bullying responsible for their actions.
I expect I will homeschool when the time comes. I’m not overly concerned with socialization.
Richard



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GingerMan

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:45 pm


Stari,
Do you actually write these comments or are they auto-generated at this point?



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The decadence of human society

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:46 pm


It has been around forever Mac, and will continue to be around till we are all gone. Humans are just like other animals, but worst. Whereas other animals kill for food…survival, we kill for pleasure, for money, for nothing.



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Andrea

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:49 pm


I wonder why the parents didn’t pull her out of school and sue the school district. I’m sure they’re kicking themselves for leaving her there. The school definitely dropped the ball here but I also remember how sneaky kids can be. I don’t think adults are always aware of everything that is being done or, if they are, can’t always eliminate all of it. I was bullied badly in school — namecalling, trash dumped on my head on the school bus, items stolen every time I turned around — and I was the weird kid. It left permanent emotional scars and has negatively impacted my life. I didn’t kill myself, though, and I think kids who do get to that point have other psychological issues or problems. The girl’s suicide can’t be blamed on these wretched brats who tormented her. They certainly contributed to making her life hell on earth but there was something else going on in her head that made her do this. I think jail time is going too far. These kids deserve to be punished — community service, counseling, sensitivity training that will help them realize what they did and hopefully help them become kinder, more thoughtful people. But they are also kids and kids sometimes go too far.



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TheFirebird

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:53 pm


Schools are a weird place. Adults that work in such places, both from being submerged in kid culture all day and from regulations, often lose sight of the fact that they are, in fact, adults.
I was a “sort of cool” kid in high school and middle school. I never knowingly attemtped to harass people, but I look back now and regret some of the stuff I said and did. Kids can be horribly mean.
I can say that as a teenager, I saw with my own eyes various teachers and administrators attempt to curry favor and approval from the “cool kids.” Often at the expense of turning the other way when something happened to a weird kid. Also a regular occurence, is school teachers and adminstrators harshly punishing a “weird kid” for the type of behavior that the “cool kid” does every day with no more than a laugh or toungue cluck, especially when the “weird kid” finally lashes back. Truly a bizarre phenomenon, but well documented, that social animals will engage in tormenting the weak and outcasts as a form of bonding. It’s especially pathetic to watch adults aid and abet kids to learn this behavior.



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TTT

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:53 pm


JackDeth:Many kids have become mean and self absorbed. They are a product of poor parenting brought on by our our own country’s steady decline of moral values which has been brought on by messed up liberal thinking
Newsflash: cruelty did not exist until hippies invented it around 1968. Before then, in the good old days, people had the proper manners to say “please, Mr. Nigra, sit in the back of the bus, thank you,” which wasn’t cruel or bullying at all.
If you want to talk about “poor parenting,” talk about all the parents of all the people smiling on those lynching postcards, or a few centuries’ worth of good God-fearing slave-owners and segregationists.
You cannot change human nature, but you can change human institutions. And thanks to liberal thinking, many have changed for the better. You’re welcome.



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Patricia

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:57 pm


SHAME ! When will we learn? Children are taught to hate- they are not born this way. So, most times what you will hear from the “so called parents” is–”Not my child!!” I am sick to my stomach that this crap continues. To all those out there who are bullied—Do NOT STOP REPORTING ABUSE-YELL AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS UNTIL SOMEONE HEARS YOU!! DO NOT LET THEM GET AWAY WITH THEIR COWARDLY ACTS!! PLEASE DO NOT FEEL ALONE-SOMEONE WILL LISTEN. I am only sorry that Phoebe and so many others were not protected. May she rest in peace.



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Randy G.

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:00 pm


I was bullied as a kid in private school. From third through ninth grade it was because I was both egghead and pipsqueak. I eventually called my sixth grade teacher for a talk in the principle’s office, which accomplished nothing. Only when I secretly poured perfume on the bully’s jacket so he smelled like a “girly man” did he stop. When he started teasing my friend who had three brothers in the school, administrators listened to him and his three brothers’ tuition. The bully was expelled within a week.
In HS, another bully picked on me. He also liked to blow his nose loud and visibly. One day I saw something called “Man Size” Kleenex in the store. I gave them to Mike for his birthday. He laughed and never bothered me again.
Peace,
Randy Gabrielse



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Your Name

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:02 pm


I’m a US citizen whose family moved to another country in the 80s. The Reagan presidency was not popular there, and as a 16-year-old schoolgirl who had lived outside the US since the age of 7, I did not know enough of my country’s politics to defend myself.
The people who bullied me, screamed insults, called me derogatory names, attributed everything they didn’t like politically about my country to me personally…..
….were the TEACHERS.
Remember: some teachers were bullies too, and some may not have grown out of it.



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hmldjr

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:07 pm


These bullies will wind up being bullies in life. let them be bullied in prison for a while and let them see what its like. Where were this girl’s parents. Why didn’t they take her out of the school and sue the school. They are just as much to blame as anyone. Why didn’t they confront the teachers and the parents of the bullies?



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TheFirebird

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:07 pm


Rod,
The rest of Isaiah 3 would be good to quote in this particular case:
The LORD says,
“The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
flirting with their eyes,
tripping along with mincing steps,
with ornaments jingling on their ankles.
Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the LORD will make their scalps bald.”
In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.
Instead of fragrance there will be a stench;
instead of a sash, a rope;
instead of well-dressed hair, baldness;
instead of fine clothing, sackcloth;
instead of beauty, branding.



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Mac S.

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:08 pm


I have teachers in my family and yes, in public schools especially, their power has been stripped (you cannot paddle, you cannot slap, you cannot restrain as a punishment – sometimes you can for safety, you cannot swear at a student etc).
That said, teachers losing their AUTHORITY is not necessary all the fault of “messed up” libruls. In fact, gun lovin’, apple pie bakin’, GOP votin’, flag wavin’ Sarah Palin book readin’ families ALSO can treat teachers like crap, argue for higher grades, threaten when denied said grade change and tell their kids that they don’t have to listen to them.
One relative, a teacher for a few decades, told us – the kids have not changed too much – it is the parents who have.
This, like so many other issues discussed here is beyond left and right – it is about WRONG and RIGHT.



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DaveJ

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:08 pm


The adults in this case; well it seem like nobody wants to get involved these days. It hearkens back to story of the good Samaritan in the Bible when people you expected should of helped didn’t. But in Phoebe’s case there would be no savior or protector.
So the adults in this case, a classic case of not wanting to get involved due to selfish personal reasons I bet. Any reasonable adult visiting this page probably wish that they could held and hugged Phoebe to protect her from her abusers saved her from this dark, depressing and lonely ending. It’s hard to accept the fact of beautiful girl from Ireland who probably by all accounts would of been alive thriving in Ireland today and would never been expose to this great evil tragedy in S. Hadley, Massachusetts USA.
Moreover, I think S. Hadley created and allowed this type environment to exist and flourish. Now they all scramble, hiding behind lawyers and a cloak of silence to protect their own skins. Some claiming not knowing of this abusive situation. Who’s in charge at the school? Who is responsible for the children safety there? And why do these parents of mean-spirited kids pretend to be victims and never owning up to their responsibility?
Reports of at least one school official watching the abuse from library for some sick entertainment value, is far worse than what actual perpetrator did. Sickens me to know that my kids who are soon to enter H.S. could be victimized by students and teachers.
My God, even in death she is still being attacked online, namely Facebook and MySpace. What cowards they must be, but they will be found.
R.I.P. May Jesus welcome you in Phoebe for rest and peace.



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Lord Karth

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:08 pm


Elizabeth Rose @ 1:08 PM writes:
“This girl’s parents need to file civil suits against all of these little monsters’ parents, as well as the teachers and administrators individually, and as a school system. I am ashamed of these so-called adults in whom so much trust was placed, and who raised and taught pure evil.”
I’ll bet $ 1.85 that that is already in the works. This is $ 10 million in wrongful-death lawsuit just itching to happen.
According to the NYTimes article, there were other similar incidents of bullying committed by at least one of the children involved in this poor girl’s situation. From what I gathered, at least some of the school administration knew about that.
Richard Barrett @ 1:43 PM writes:
“Being the Fat Kid and the Smart Kid, I was bullied mercilessly during elementary school and junior high.”
I was the Tall Kid, the Smart Kid and the Clumsy Kid, so I got it from just about everybody. (Ever been booed by an entire elementary school at the school play ? I can speak from personal experience that it was less than pleasant.) My parents had much the same discussion as yours did, with slightly less in the way of results. I was even told that “I” would be suspended if I ever got in a fight again—even though I was the target.
After that little exchange, my father took me aside and told me not to worry about what the school said. He told me “Don’t YOU ever start a fight. You just make sure to FINISH it. Let me worry about the school.”
Sure enough, two days later, I got jumped. But I was lucky in that I was able to turn the tables on one of the jumpers. Bloodied his nose.
I got suspended for three days.
When my father heard about it, he promptly: a) went in to see the principal; b) told said principal where to head in; c) told said principal that I was under orders to defend myself EACH and EVERY time someone tried something, and d) told him that I would get rewarded for defending myself.
The principal refused to relent on the suspension.
My father (and grandfather) made sure that I had three really good days off. Lunch out one day. Taken fishing the next. A game of golf by myself the third day. My grandfather repeated what my father had said: “NEVER start a fight unless you have to. But if someone else starts it, YOU finish it.”
Words to live by, I think. I’ve said those words to all three of my sons.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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stari_momak

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:09 pm


Gingerman,
If this girl was was, say, a Guatemalan girl at a primarily ‘Anglo’ school, and was hounded and called a “Guatemalan Slut”, and subsequently killed herself, you bet the NYT would bring in the ‘anti-immigrant’ angle, the race angle, and that various politicians and ethnic-interest groups would jump on the bandwagon. Or, more likely, the situation wouldn’t have gotten that far, because the ‘Guatemalan slut’ remark would likely have triggered prompt action by the school staff. But then again, our attorney general has basically said that whites cannot be victims of hate crimes, so there you have it.



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Hector

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:12 pm


Re: They certainly contributed to making her life hell on earth but there was something else going on in her head that made her do this.
I’m sure she was depressed. As many kids are at that age. The fact remains that if she hadn’t been tortured in this way, she wouldn’t have killed herself.
By the way, Rod’s post may have inadvertently given some of us a slightly misleading impression. Not to minimize the pain of regular bullying, but the abuse of this girl wasn’t limited to bullying. If you follow the link, she was the victim of statutory rape as well. Sexual intercourse can be very traumatizing for someone of that age, which is part of the reason that we have an age of consent to begin with.
It’s always been interesting to me that C.S. Lewis in his voluminous writings, devotes so much time to talking about English boarding schools and the petty nastiness of the boys in them, and how those same drives and sentiments, in the adult world, take shape in forms like crime, exploitation, and totalitarianism. You can take that line of thought too far, of course, but I think he was certainly on to something. In a high school classroom or in national politics, we often seek to become part of the in-crowd by showing our contempt for people in the out-group, and seek to buy our own popularity and esteem at the cost of someone else’s pain.



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Your Name

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:26 pm


I’m sorry, I don’t care what the parents were doing. It is the adults at school who should have brought it to the attention of the parent or parents. Sometimes parents just don’t umderstand the seriousness of this bullying or how devastating it can be to a child. Or sometimes the child doesn’t want to “worry” the parents. If they had just moved here or had financial problems she may not have felt like she could go to them with it. Any child who is “different” is a target, but to pick on her for being an immigrant is horrible. Shame on those children and the parents who raised them to be so cruel and evil, and on the school officials who let this continue. This poor girl, I am heartbroken for her and her family!! God bless them!



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Appalachian Prof

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:31 pm


As a society, we expect kids to put with things that we as adults would never tolerate among ourselves. Then when they hang themselves we’re shocked, simply shocked.
I agree with the remarks about the Disney movies. They inculcate that mentality of picking on the “geek” type.
Shows like “What Not to Wear” and other programs of that ilk, usually hosted by bitchy males and smart-aleck females, perpetuate the s&*t culture of mockery of the style-deviant by the paid representatives of the fashion and cosmetics industry.
All of these people, and their pop-culture enablers, should be flogged and screamed at for hours.



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Appalachian Prof

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:34 pm


My comment has been held! I got so mad about this topic that I put in a mild profanity, even though I put in a little asterisk and another substitute sign. So here is my comment, with my mild oath redacted:
As a society, we expect kids to put with things that we as adults would never tolerate among ourselves. Then when they hang themselves we’re shocked, simply shocked.
I agree with the remarks about the Disney movies. They inculcate that mentality of picking on the “geek” type.
Shows like “What Not to Wear” and other programs of that ilk, usually hosted by witchy males and smart-aleck females, perpetuate the culture of mockery of the style-deviant by the paid representatives of the fashion and cosmetics industry.
All of these people, and their pop-culture enablers, should be flogged and screamed at for hours.



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Appalachian Prof

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:35 pm


It should have read, “put UP with things”.



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Your Name

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm


I was also one of those mercilessly taunted and bullied throughout school. Fat, smart, more interested in music and theater than football or cars — I was a prime target in elementary and middle school. When I moved after 8th grade, I was so excited to start over in a new school, new state, where no one knew me. Didn’t take long for the same patterns to creep in. There was much less physical bullying (a benefit of hitting 6’0, 200 lbs+ in 9th grade) but the teasing, the ostracization, the simple disdain with which I was treated was hard to bear. I can’t iamgine how much worse it was for this poor girl.
I was a junior when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out their massacre at Columbine High School, and it shook my school (and so many others) hard. So how did the administrators respond? By cracking down on the weirdos, the freaks, the unpopular kids. We were dangerous, potential timebombs every one. The kid who liked his trenchcoat? Expelled on ludicrous pretenses. Anyone who actually reported bullying was themselves sent to counseling for their antisocial behavior. The one openly gay student was threatened and harrassed to the point his parents transferred all their kids — after being told that things like death threats were his fault. “If he didn’t insist on bringing this sort of attention to himself–”
It will happen again. At some school in middle America, the bullies are taunting and abusing someone who won’t turn all that pain inward like poor Phoebe. Somewhere, a kid will snap, and he’ll try to make sure everyone feels the same misery he feels before he goes. Maybe next time we’ll actually learn, but I doubt it.



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Allen

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm


The above is me… bloody CAPTCHA…



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Leah

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:57 pm


Rod,
Your parents did the right thing in shaming you “hard” as you put it. I am convinced that shame, as long as one is capable of feeling it, is the most character- building emotion there is.



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DorothyMagdalen

posted March 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm


The school and the school staff SHOULD be prosecuted as well. It is like saying that anyone that participates in a rubbery or murder (oh, I was only driving the getaway car) shouldn’t be prosecuted. Doing nothing in this case is as bad as being one of the bullies.



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Appalachian Prof

posted March 30, 2010 at 3:04 pm


Leah’s right about the effectiveness of your parents shaming you, Rod. Shame has its place and should be used more often.



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Mont D. Law

posted March 30, 2010 at 3:25 pm


This is what happens when you take God out of our schools and public places.
We said the Lord’s Prayer every morning when I was in school, sang the national anthem @ the beginning and end of the day. We had Christmas recitals and Easter ones all @ public schools.
That didn’t stop them from making my everyday hell from 2nd grade until I was committed to a mental institution in grade 6. I remember being cornered in a field by a group of 4 or 5 boys who were spitting at me repeatedly and working up the nerve to kick the crap out of me when the principal chased them away. My feelings of gratitude ended the next day when I was called into his office and bullied some more – asked repeatedly what I had done to provoke them.
I was 8.
This has nothing to do with God in schools and it didn’t start happening suddenly after Woodstock or Vatican II. It has always happened, just like sexual abuse in the Catholic church. What has changed is our willingness to credit it’s happening, to support the victims and to deal with the abusers. Our willingness to do that is the result of the upheavals of the 60′s and seventies – of feminism and Vatican II.
We would do well to remember that.



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Mary

posted March 30, 2010 at 3:30 pm


It would seem to me that those who stood by are accessories to the crime, to murder. In essence that is what was done, they drove this young girl to take her own life. The young hoodlums who did the bullying are just in training for a life of crime, God only knows what they’d be capable of in the future… they need to be prosecuted severely. But the adults, in particular, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible and never again be allowed to hold a job where they are working with young people, or any living thing for that matter. I wish we had a cold dark place we could banish these people to.



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Chris

posted March 30, 2010 at 3:32 pm


All nice kids are bullied in school. And now that these little bastards are being raised by pathetic, weak-spined parents who scream at teachers when their little angels get a “B” instead of an “A” on a report, but won’t refuse even the most esoteric whim of these little monsters, our nation is DOOMED. Seriously, do we really need fashion conscious five year olds? Does every little brat deserve a car on their 16th birthday?
The blame must be aimed squarely at the parents of this nation. Here in Florida, we had black kids set a white kid on fire, and in the same school, a boy almost beat a girl in school to death over a text message. This is all the fault of faulty child rearing and political correctness. Parents are afraid of their children. God forbid an out of control brat gets a slap on his/her backside. Child abuse! Arrest the parents!So instead, we reap what we have sown: a nation of whining, selfish brats that will never be able to work well with others. No wonder the Muslim world holds us in such contempt- maybe we deserve it!



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janet welch

posted March 30, 2010 at 3:40 pm


I thank that it is so sad that our children can’t go to school with out beening afraid and scared.What happen was uncalled for by all involved.I thank all the children,teachers should be helt accountable and maybe the school it self.



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James Kabala

posted March 30, 2010 at 3:40 pm


Your name: It’s worth noting also that the claim that Harris and Klebold were victims of bullying later proved to be untrue. (In fact, almost every original claim about the killers was untrue – they didn’t target Christians or jocks, they didn’t belong to the Trenchcoat Mafia, and they didn’t go bowling the morning of the massacre.) Probably there have been at least some real cases of bullying victims turning violently on their tormentors, but those like Phoebe Prince who turn in on themselves are much more common.



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Kathryn

posted March 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm


Shame on the kids that did the bullying, those that knew about it and did nothing to try and stop it and all of their parents for not instilling better judgment skills and self-confidence in their kids. Judgment and self-confidence, which may well, have prevented Phoebe Princes’ death.
Kids these days seem to think that the world is their oyster and they can do anything that they like because they are entitled to and that if they do something wrong, “Oh well someone else is to blame. Why should I be in trouble if all I was doing was going along to keep the retribution from being aimed at me?”
There is no accountability for his or her actions; it is always because of someone else! These kids acted like a pack of lemmings! All following one over the cliff, this in this case did not cause their death, but Phoebe’s.
Shame, Shame, Shame on both the parents and the kids. My hope is that the parents do right by their kids; making their kids take the punishment they deserve and to hold them accountable for their actions. No one forced the kids to join in, they made that conscious decision by themselves and they deserve what punishment may come.
As for those who stood idly by and did nothing even though they knew of the bullying, may the guilt live with them.
One can forgive transgressions, but forgetting is a different matter and Karma is a whole other story! (One which many of these people will have to deal with.)



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Leah

posted March 30, 2010 at 4:12 pm


Appalachian Prof,
The thing about one’s parents doing the shaming is that it’s motivated by love, not hate. Maybe that makes all the difference.
What I’ve noticed about this Phoebe Prince incident is that now cyberspace is being used to “shame” the bullies–and it’s probably as ugly as the initial harassment.
What a sad situation all around.



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Your name

posted March 30, 2010 at 5:02 pm


When I was in fifth grade, I was the bully. Two of my friends and I conspired to make the life of a fourth girl miserable, and we pretty much succeeded.
But. This happened in a parochial school in 1955. And this whole business, though most of it happened off campus and out of school hours, came to the attention of the nun, I assume because the parents of the victim complained.
She kept the three of us perps after school one day. I still remember that day vividly: the smell of chalk in the air, the lowered blinds, the sea of little desks and the nun’s one big desk at the front of the room.
She spoke to us separately. I don’t know what she said to Kathy and Candy. They refused to discuss it. But without raising her voice, let alone her hand, she gave me a talking-to which would scour the hide off an alligator. She made me feel like the lowest form of life.
Well, I never did that again. We admitted the former victim to our clique, she was reasonably gracious about it, God love her, and life moved on.
Adults need to take responsibility for the behavior of the children who are in their care. Is there some word in that sentence that these school administrators in the Prince case don’t understand?



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Pam

posted March 30, 2010 at 5:05 pm


Thats right Leah, feel sorry for the animals that killed her. Didn’t you ever hear of and eye for and eye. But don’t worry these animals won’t face the same torment that poor Phoebe did…there are laws to protect criminals. Their names won’t be released,because their underage, their parents won’t be on tv, cause they won’t want to expose their children to ridacule. Hell they might get off on a technocality. Whatever happens to them cannot compare to the dispare, torment and pain this little girl went through. Just once can’t you put yourself in this girls place. How would you feel, what would you do? She did nothing wrong, she is not to blame, yet she is DEAD all the same. Feel compasion for her family and above all..lets all stop this from happening again…
Phoebe,
May all the angels in heaven lift up your sweet soul and deliver you into GOD’S hands.



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Kim

posted March 30, 2010 at 5:23 pm


I get so disgusted with this type of behavior from our society. I cannot understand why anyone can feel good about treating another human being the way they treated her. Also, where were the other good hearted students to help stand up for her so that maybe these other students would have stopped.
Then most of all, it should be a crime as well for the teachers, principals, and all other administrative staff in that school district, to not have done anything to stop this issue. Because, they are by law responsible to keep our children safe. And with everyone knowing on their own, as well as being told by students, there was enough proof for the school officials to have brought this issue to a hault. They did nothing, therefore they commited a crime as well, and should lose all of their credintials, not be able to ever work with children again, and spend some time in jail to make them think about what they should have done.



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Greg

posted March 30, 2010 at 5:40 pm


My grandfather used to say that since people had no television when he was growing up, they entertained themselves by being cruel to one another (I’ve always assumed that he was including himself in this assessment). Not to pick on one Rod’s favorite themes, but how are things like this anything but community run wild? I grew up in the same small town that my grandfather did, and while the tactics change as children become adults, this is what community too often is (and too often always has been), whether you see it in town government, in the workplace, in the church, or in the tavern. It doesn’t always end so tragically or get carried to such extremes, but I don’t see how it can ever by rooted out.



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Karl G

posted March 30, 2010 at 6:06 pm


Mac S.
While you’ve picked another obvious example, you’re still focusing on overt bullying. This same problem is also evident when you hear people say something like “She shouldn’t have been wearing that” or “She shouldn’t have been walking there/alone” in reference to rape and assault victims. It’s there when people say “Oh, they should just stop being lazy and get jobs” when confronted with people in poverty.
Heck, it’s showing up right here on this thread when people call for the heads of the other parents and administrators involved in this situation and find every possible way to heap blame for what happened on someone or otherwise use this case as evidence to advance their own personal politics.
This is a fundamentally unproductive problem in attitude that’s infected human nature for as long as we have any kind of history to track it, despite many notable figures along the way who have tried to admonish us for such judgmental behavior.
It’s much easier to attack the students, the parents, the administrators, and the teachers than it is to try to understand the anguish that many of them are feeling over this failing, or to ask how we can help them come to terms with what happened and try to help them find a way to overcome their own failings in the matter.
Am I much of one to talk my self? No, not really. I’ve found myself in all of the roles in this drama- abused, abuser, onlooker, much as everyone else has, and few have the capacity to clearly point out this issue without ultimately participating in the same cycle; that can’t be helped really. But we’ve go to keep trying anyway, because nothing is going to change otherwise.



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celticdragonchick

posted March 30, 2010 at 6:10 pm


I was a junior when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out their massacre at Columbine High School, and it shook my school (and so many others) hard. So how did the administrators respond? By cracking down on the weirdos, the freaks, the unpopular kids. We were dangerous, potential timebombs every one. The kid who liked his trenchcoat? Expelled on ludicrous pretenses. Anyone who actually reported bullying was themselves sent to counseling for their antisocial behavior. The one openly gay student was threatened and harrassed to the point his parents transferred all their kids — after being told that things like death threats were his fault. “If he didn’t insist on bringing this sort of attention to himself–”
It will happen again. At some school in middle America, the bullies are taunting and abusing someone who won’t turn all that pain inward like poor Phoebe. Somewhere, a kid will snap, and he’ll try to make sure everyone feels the same misery he feels before he goes. Maybe next time we’ll actually learn, but I doubt it.
Exactly. When I was bullied without mercy in the late 1970′s, complaining to the staff was useless.(things that were said and done to me in Junior high would have been considered criminal today) Worse then useless. It’s all YOUR fault for being different, see?
I heard of a number of situations at schools after Columbine where the bullied students were victimized even further by being targeted by the administration for…being bullied and harassed.
Unbelievable.



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disgusted

posted March 30, 2010 at 6:18 pm


all the students charged that are found guilty should server a nice term- in years- without the option of parole. all the faculty with knowledge of the harassment should be sumarilly dismissed permanently. I’ve had my children on the receiving end of this and the school refused to call the police after a clear assault- we called and pressed charges- and pulled our kids from school. wake up people- removing the ability of teachers to discipline students has brought this on along with the overall deterioration of the respect for authority – and of course the liberals that don’t believe in spanking……..



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celticdragonchick

posted March 30, 2010 at 6:23 pm


Rod…
The parents cannot sue the school it seems because of state laws.
Referring to the Massachusetts “public duty rule” that bars schools and teachers from being sued for what students do, Murphy said of Scheibel, “because she knows they can’t be sued civilly, she had an extra responsibility to charge them criminally.”
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/03/30/2010-03-30_mom_of_teen_charged_with_bullying_south_hadley_hs_student_phoebe_prince_into_sui.html



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IRENE

posted March 30, 2010 at 7:17 pm


Plain and simple: all who did nothing to prevent or everything to cause Phoebe’s death, should suffer in EVERY WAY that she did. I am sick and tired of all this catering we do in this society. We almost encourage people to be this way. I always tell my kids “don’t ever be the first to punch anyone, but you better punch back if someone else does it first” It’s very unfortunate that you have to be that way, but turning the other cheek never works. HOW SHALLOW THESE KIDS WERE TO NOT HAVE ANYTHING MORE PRODUCTIVE TO DO IN THEIR LIVES THAT THEY HAVE TO TORTURE SOMEONE ELSE’S. THEY ARE TOO PATHETIC FOR WORDS.



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Frank

posted March 30, 2010 at 7:52 pm


I looked up two words in the dictionary.
1. Percecute
2. Relegate
Persecution- To pursue in a manner to injure, grieve, or afflict; to beset with cruelty or malignity; to harass; especially, to afflict, harass, punish, or put to death…
This is the most heartbreaking story I’ve ever heard and I’m 57 years old.
Such a heinous display of human behavior. The ultimate tragedy.
The story of Christ was also that of persecution to death but even he had a group that supported him; had many followers.
Phoebe had only her family and maybe a few friends.
It’s the parents of those poorly raised children and the ones who saw and had the ability to do something but didn’t that need to be re-educated or relegated.
Relegate- 1. To send into exile; banish.
2. To assign to a lower position; downgrade.



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hlvanburen

posted March 30, 2010 at 8:28 pm


This is not an isolated incident, as many of you already know. This tragedy is merely the latest in a long series of similar abuse. For example, in Georgia this past fall there was another instance of bullycide.
http://www.projectqatlanta.com/news_articles/view/anti-gay_bullying_cited_in_georgia_teens_suicide?gid=5125
““He hated school,” his mother said. “They would spit in his food, call him ‘gay,’ smack him and say, ‘I can’t wait until you are six feet under!’ A lot of [the] time he would go to the counselor’s office and call me. We complained, but nothing much was done. If we had the financial means, we would have put him somewhere else.””
And as the following story mentions, some juries are beginning to take note of this and make some significant awards when suits are brought.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/30/AR2010033001599.html
“BOSTON — A gay teenager in New York wins $50,000 from a school district that failed to stop taunts about his sexual orientation. The Justice Department investigates complaints that administrators ignored racial bullying in a Philadelphia school. ”
But later in this same story I read the following regarding the teachers and administrators who failed Phoebe.
“District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel said the inaction of school officials was troublesome but not criminal. ”
Why this is not criminal is something I fail to understand. For that matter, why anyone would oppose an anti-bullying law that might help protect students is something else I refuse to understand.
Having worked in a public school that was pro-active regarding bullying and abuse, I am ashamed because of these enablers who contributed to the misery and death of this young girl, and the other young people who, like Phoebe, felt their only escape was death.
At the very least public hearings should be held by the state Department of Education into the behavior of the teachers and adminstrators. But there should be more, much more in the law to not only punish those who ignore such abuse but train them in how to properly respond, and even how to recognize the signs of abuse.
This cannot go on!



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hlvanburen

posted March 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm


“If supporters of the school whose administrators allowed Phoebe Prince to be driven to suicide by her abuse — as were the five, yes, five young Catholic men in Kansas who were victims of a pederast priest shielded by the diocese — defended those in charge of the school by saying they didn’t protect Phoebe because they had been given bad advice, or are no more guilty than the Church or anybody else, or are themselves the victims of people who have an anti-public school agenda, people would laugh them off the stage. They would say: “A child in your care was destroyed by packs of ravening wolves you could have stopped but did nothing to stop, and you have the audacity to whine about unfair treatment in the media?”"
As a Baptist friend of mine would say, “AMEN!! PREACH IT BROTHER DREHER!!” Hearing such an argument from the administration, staff and community where Phoebe was tortured would indeed result in laughter, followed by huge amounts of scorn being heaped upon the heads of those making the argument. And deservedly so!



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Jon

posted March 30, 2010 at 8:53 pm


Sounds like many posters had an experience with bullies in their school days. I am no exception. In my case it happened in the fifth grade, and my mother had just died toward the end of my fourth grade year. I was withdrawn and numb, and vulnerable. When my father learned of what was happening he talked to my teacher, a man (my first male teacher), who stated that he never interfered in such situations because kids needed to be toughened up. Even, it would seem, children who were dealing with major grief trauma.
Three years ago I encountered one of my chief tormenters (he owns a small contracting company now, and had just redone my step-mother’s driveway). I found I had no animus toward him at all. But that teacher of mine should have been driven from the schoolhouse with whips.



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jay

posted March 30, 2010 at 10:42 pm


I am terribly sickened by this story… The DA has a job to do, before those of us strickened with grief seek vigilante justice… It is the state’s choice…



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted March 30, 2010 at 11:09 pm


There is an elusive balance here. In schools with tight discipline, there are staff who get away with a good deal of abuse, physical, emotional and sexual. In schools where students are extremely conscious of their rights to be free of adult interference, the in crowd gets away with a good deal of abuse of those who are not in. As Rod points out, it is not sufficient to have good rules and regulations, on paper, because they mean nothing if not lived by the people responsible for the institution. It may well be that someone should literally have taken this group of bullies, slammed then with some restraint against the nearest wall, and asked them “What do you think you are doing? You can’t treat anyone like that!” But there are many teachers who could not be trusted with the authority to treat students like that. It comes down to sound judgement, but as James Madison observed of government “Statesmen will not always be at the helm.” Outrage is the obvious response to this tragedy — but running a school on a day to day basis every other day of the year… that is going to take a lot more than prosecution of a few perpetrators.



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John

posted March 31, 2010 at 12:18 am


This girl came to this country, legally, and was persecuted to no end with little help from school officials. A few months before an 11 year old from the same area suffered the same fate. This from one of the most liberal parts of the Nation. Oh yes, lets organize task force to fight bullying. Give me a break. How about having the parents and teachers take matters into there own hands and take care of there misfits the proper way, punishment. Instead you let these children of liberal boneheads run a muck until its’ to late. In my day when I miss behaved I got a swat across the but. God help you if the V.P. does that now. What a sad shame. If Phoebe had a last name of one of her accusers, Velazquez, this would have been handled eminently. Shame on you all.



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Liam

posted March 31, 2010 at 9:06 am


Though I don’t think about it that much, when I do I realize still live with the effects of having been repeatedly bullied (particularly in 1st, 4th and 8th grades) but with the same reaction from teachers and others in authority others have reported (this was in the late 60s to mid-70s, just to note), but I will forego describing the experience and its effects and residue. All of my five siblings were the objects of bullying over the years, and my loving parents were not well equipped or well disposed to provide us with a sense of security around bullying, and of all their failings, in retrospect that was probably the worst (which they now realize, and we are all more or less reconciled about that, just to note); I note this to remind parents that their duty to provide that sense of security to their children is deeper than many parents today appear to realize. I think my parents tried to teach as to turn the other cheek at too early an age, and it was a lesson learned in the wrong time, out of place.
To this day, however, I do not tolerate bullies, whereever I find them. Especially in the workplace, where they abound.



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Karl G

posted March 31, 2010 at 10:00 am


The only way to externally punish a bully is to take the mantle of bully onto yourself; there’s no way to beat empathy into a person. As Rod and at least one other commenter here have pointed, it wasn’t additional punishment that woke them up but being forced to confront the already existing harm that their actions had caused, and accept that they were responsible for the real consequences of their action.
Heaping bigger and bigger punishments on such bad actors only teaches them that they need to be more subtle and find ways to keep doing the same thing without being caught or how to use passive-aggressive methods to stay just within the technical bounds of the law.
These kids need healing, not retributive abuse. Similar for the authority figures. This could be a great opportunity to try to figure our how to give them the support and guidance they need to prevent future incidents, or it could be wasted by just shoving the matter under the rug by punishing those that are most visible and replacing them with others who will eventually fall to the same mistakes.



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hlvanburen

posted March 31, 2010 at 11:58 am


“These kids need healing, not retributive abuse. Similar for the authority figures. This could be a great opportunity to try to figure our how to give them the support and guidance they need to prevent future incidents, or it could be wasted by just shoving the matter under the rug by punishing those that are most visible and replacing them with others who will eventually fall to the same mistakes.”
Having spent the better part of two decades involved in the educational field, I can assure you that there are numerous opportunities annually for each staff member to receive training in a variety of these areas. What we are seeing in far too many instances is a situation nearly identical to that in the Catholic Church, where students who report abuse are not believed, or when staff witness the subtle abuse of bullying they excuse it as merely “toughening” up the kid or assume that the victim did something to merit the treatment.
The problem with bullying is that it accrues over time, building up on a child’s heart until an incident that, in isolation, seems small may well put them over the line.
No, these are educational professionals, as I am, and they have had this issue mentioned to them for a number of years. Professional reprimand, dismissal, and financial liability for their inaction is the appropriate path in these instances of neglect.
They deserve the same sympathy and treatment that the enablers in the Catholic church deserve…none.



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kathy thompson

posted March 31, 2010 at 12:44 pm


The officials as well as the students should be held accountable in the death of this girl. I had trouble with school officials when my son was bullied by students and one teacher…The principle absolutely did nothing and this was 7 years ago. Bullying has gotten so out of hand and when their is NO one to help you and if you don’t send your child to school, YOU could get arrested for truancy! The teachers and admin. act as if THEY are afraid of being an adult and standing up to this sort of malicious behavior. The bullying is gotten far beyond the kind of yesteryear,now it is stalking and tormenting to point that the victims feel there is no alternative ,but either commit suicide or murder(columbine). There has been PARENTS involved in the bullying in recent years. It is a violation of these victims rights,so where is the ACLU? These students knew what they were doing and continued after her death shows lack of remorse, so THROW the book at them! The teachers that saw this happening and did nothing is as guilty and should be fired and lose their license to teach. They only condoned the harassers behavior by doing nothing. I homeschooled my child and we dealt with his feelings through counseling and lots of support and love. He graduates this year and has emerged from this trauma a better human being,but not without hard work and lots of talking !



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Liam

posted March 31, 2010 at 12:50 pm


http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/serial.htm
Recognize anyone you’ve worked with?
While not all bullies are psychopaths in a clinical sense, it’s important to realize that psychopaths typically show damage in the amygdala area of their brain, the brain area responsible for producing aversive emotions such as fear and anxiety. Psychopaths are dangerous because they are missing the emotions that guide moral decisions in the first place. There’s a void where their feelings are supposed to be, and they can commit crimes because their emotions never tell them not to. The neural structures of the brain to help deal with social impact of decision-making are a very recent biological adaptation.



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Franklin Evans

posted March 31, 2010 at 12:56 pm


HL, the following is not meant to argue with your points. Your commentary would be appreciated.
The general confusion over why the school staff is not criminally liable (or even indictable) falls under the erosion and in some places removal of the concept of in loco parentis. Don’t take my word for it, look it up with an emphasis on the responsibility of an adult placed in charge of activities involving minors. The short version: You can’t allege a crime when the person in question can be charged with a crime for doing what you think he or she should have done. You get assault charges against teachers who intervene in student fights. You get neglect charges against a lone teacher in charge of 30 or more children who is being paid to teach, not keep his or her eyes on the children every minute. The catch-22 list goes on.
And, as demonstrated so very well in this thread, you have the rush to judgment where the mere appearance of guilt is enough to consign the adult to Hell, public flogging, loss of future income, prison, or some combination of them. The rest of us can thank all the gods there are that you are not in charge of our criminal justice system.



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D

posted March 31, 2010 at 1:13 pm


I applaud the DA. 16-year olds know right from wrong and need to be held accountable just as an 18 and up person would. They should not be allowed to hide behind the juvenille “trump card.”
The ones that need healing are Phoebe’s family, not these awful “children.”



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hlvanburen

posted March 31, 2010 at 2:29 pm


“The general confusion over why the school staff is not criminally liable (or even indictable) falls under the erosion and in some places removal of the concept of in loco parentis. Don’t take my word for it, look it up with an emphasis on the responsibility of an adult placed in charge of activities involving minors. The short version: You can’t allege a crime when the person in question can be charged with a crime for doing what you think he or she should have done.”
All of this can, and should, be clarified with legislation. While I understand your point (having been in numerous inservice sessions where this concept was discussed), I also understand that if a school employee witnesses two students fighting, or a group of students engaging in an act of violence on another student (such as what Mr. Dreher has described or what has been noted in MANY other cases similar to Phoebe’s), that employee has a moral and legal obligation to intervene to protect the life and limb of the student(s). This can include making contact with the aggressor student(s) for purposes of ending the fight. Many educators involved with special needs students have received training in ways to deal with violent students.
But, in my experience, these instances are interrupted merely by the presence of a teacher or administrator, who can then remove the aggressors to the office and see to it that the victim has medical attention if needed. I broke up numerous fights in the hallway by simply shouting “Hey! Stop that!” as I walked toward the students.
Your point is relevant, but school administrators and officials have obligations under law to protect the life and limb of those students in their care. It is not “in loco parentis” obligations, but it is a “reasonable person” requirement. And I suspect that as stories like this continue to rack up legislatures will indeed modify the law to grant teachers and administrators more leeway in how they deal with bullying in their schools.
And they should also put teeth into these laws so that teachers and administrators pay attention to them.



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Franklin Evans

posted March 31, 2010 at 2:52 pm


Excellent response, HL. It’s always a pleasure dealing with someone who both knows the score and can approach it rationally.
Minor, almost trivial quibble: I would not link “moral and legal” with the staff’s responsibility. Too often their “legal” responsibility is defined by an insurance company filtered through the legal staffs of school district and municipality/state legislators. From my view* it edges over into principles similar to those underlying medical malfeasance: A physician (insert specialist) sees an injured person and stops to give first aid. If the person dies, that physician is immediately at risk for a malfeasance charge or malpractice lawsuit, abetted by the fact that the incident did not take place in the presence of witnesses and/or in a hospital.
Maybe my analogy is too stretched, but the he-said/she-said problem is my point. Two adult-sized children fighting is the current state, and unless one is trained in martial arts one is just not capable of knowing if it will result in serious injury or death (unless weapons can be seen). If one or both children are injured in the course of the adult’s intervention, assault charges (and angry mobs of parents) almost certainly follow.
* My wife has been a special ed teacher for over 35 years, and is currently SE liaison in a high school. Teachers who attempt to physically restrain special ed students before calling for security are just wrong according to the rules, and if they do it before security arrives are almost always wrong. Of course, not acting is wrong too when a child is injured. [rhetorical] Where is the sanity in all of that?



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joi

posted March 31, 2010 at 3:07 pm


i think those kids should be sent to a juvenile institution for rehabilitation and be made to serve 3yrs minimum jail terms.for the adults they should be sacked and never allowed to work again.they should be locked up cos i consider that aiding and abeting.they folded their arms and watched it happen.
my condolence to the family of Phoebe.i feel their pain…



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Joe

posted March 31, 2010 at 4:36 pm


Serve the maximum time? Do you have any idea what goes on in a school? Do you think serving the maximum time will make these children become better people. They need help, just as Phoebe needed help if she could go as far as she did and kill herself. You have no idea what goes on in a school; the drama, the games, the lies. If you did, you wouldn’t be so crazy as to say they should be put in jail. What do you think will happen to these kids if you throw them in jail….they will only become criminals themselves. Charging 2 boys with statutory rape and having them labed as sex offenders is simply ridiculous. I feel for the family of Phoebe and for her, but where was the family during all this? Why didn’t she go to them? Did they listen? Who taught her coping skills on how to deal with these nasty people that picked on her. If you teach children how to handle and cope with bullies, the bullies will move on to another target, until they can’t find anyone and then in some small way become the outcast. Go visit a school before you make judgements and realize that parents have to teach their children coping skills…it isn’t all about the school teachers and administration. There was obviously something amiss with Phoebe’s family if she was 15 and sleeping with 2 different boys already…why was she needing that attention. This isn’t her fault, it isn’t the other children’s fault, it is ALL the adults’ fault, especially her parent…and YOU are only making it worse by calling for the heads of others.



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Momof4

posted March 31, 2010 at 5:57 pm


“They will become criminals themselves” ? Seriously? They already ARE criminals. It’s not about rehab, it’s about justice.
Blame the victim much?
If you are assaulted, stalked and harassed at work, is it your job to just learn to cope better with it, or is it the bully’s job to stop the abuse or be fired?
Why are you blaming the victim? Disgusting!
If this was going on at work and no one in charge in a workplace did anything, everyone would be saying the workplace management was at fault. EVEN MORE SO in this case when we are talking about children.



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Joe

posted March 31, 2010 at 6:25 pm


You obviously don’t work in or never have worked in a school, or you wouldn’t be so ignorant as to what goes on. I am blaming the people who raised her. You people want to blame everything on the school personnel or the people in a work place b/c you can’t cope with someone saying something to you. Tell them to screw off, talk to your parents, talk to the adults and let them help you with it. The problem is you have so many children making up stories, who eventually grow up to make up the stories, you don’t know who to believe. Trust me, I have had it done to me…I was “bullied” by someone lying about things and eventually lost a lot in my life b/c of it. These CHILDREN aren’t criminals, they made a mistake. They shouldn’t be set free, but you can’t ruin their lives b/c of it. Every child gets picked on in school and it is your job as a parent to teach them how to cope with it…NOT THE SCHOOLS…you want children to be raised by teachers and administrators but don’t realize by the time they get to these teachers and administrators the children either have it together or don’t, BECAUSE YOU HAVE INFLUENCED THEM FOR THE FIRST 5 YEARS OF THEIR LIVES…go read some Alfred Adler. Just as much as Phoebe had something wrong with her if she had the guts to kill herself, these children had something wrong with them for being so relentless. Locking children up isn’t the answer. I would be you are probably the type of parent that comes to school when her child does something wrong and it is always someone elses fault; not your child’s. LEARN TO DEAL WITH IDIOTS IN THE WORLD AND YOU WON’T HAVE PROBLEMS LIKE THIS…if you teach children how to cope, and others how NOT to bully, you won’t have problems when they are adults. READ WHAT I WROTE!!!!



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Joy Kirby

posted March 31, 2010 at 7:50 pm


I am glad to hear that the DA had some sense and put charges against the bullies. The school officals also should be charged. There is no reason that this should have been allowed to go on this long. I too hope the parents put a lawsuit in against everyone envolved parents, teachers and principal. There should be a law and better ways of inforcing them for parents of students that are being bullied to stop it before it goes this far. Alot of the time all that comes from a complaint, is students being called to office and nothing else done, most of the time making the complaining student feeling worse. We have had some problems with it at our school. Happened somewhat the same way just not as bad. But these students were all best friends before it all began over a boy seems like everyone wanted to date. Just glad it stopped because the school officials didn’t do anything to help. I think it is the schools responsibily to keep an eye out for problems and do something to stop it not stand by and let it happen.



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Your Name

posted March 31, 2010 at 8:16 pm


Every child gets picked on in school and it is your job as a parent to teach them how to cope with it.
Hey, whatever. Every adult is faced, sooner or later, by a thug with a gun who proposes to rob and/or kill them. These people need to “cope with it.”
I’ll be right over to your school, Joe, with my gun. Perhaps I’ll point it at a child, in which case, whatever, I guess. If I point it at you, what will you say then?



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Franklin Evans

posted March 31, 2010 at 9:18 pm


“Your Name” March 31, 2010 8:16 PM,
It is ridiculously easy to track you down. I strongly suggest you contact Beliefnet, under your real identity, and have your post deleted. Otherwise, you might be getting a visit from law enforcement in the near future.



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Lisa

posted April 1, 2010 at 12:10 am


The reason the adults in the school did nothing to stop the harassment is because adults in the educational system are numb to thi type of abuse and consider it “normal”. In addition you wouldn’t beleive the harassment and competition among staff members to fellow staff members.



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Your Name

posted April 1, 2010 at 2:01 am


Joe – You are such a moron. To even think of blaming the parents for a child’s suicide after ongoing torture is appalling! It’s people like you who make this world a darker place. By your comments, I’d bet you push your kids to bully. It’s about time that people (and MINORS) in this country be held accountable for their actions! The actions of these individuals forced Phoebe to take her life as she saw no other way out. They need to pay for that!



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Kevin

posted April 1, 2010 at 2:04 am


Joe,
I bet you’d feel differently if Phoebe was your child.



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Brenz

posted April 1, 2010 at 2:13 am


Joe, you are obnoxious. Children should feel safe in schools & teachers & administrators need to be proactive in providing a safe school environment. Yes, Phoebe was clearly not in a sane state of mind. Her parents met with the administration to address the bullying of their daughter. How can you blame her parents & want sympathy for the bullies?
I am a teachers & its my job to make my room safe. Any teacher that cannot do this very basic task need to resign or be fired.
The students showed no shame of guilt for their horrendous behavior. To suggest that they need help not punishment is naive. It is your very mindset that enable these students to act so horribly.
These students need a dose of reality. You abuse someone & you will be held accountable. Accountability is NOT A BAD THING!!



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Your Name

posted April 1, 2010 at 3:42 pm


Our kids learn this from their environments, parents, tv, etc. It starts at home. If every parent took the time to instill values of respect for ALL others, there would be much less bullying. If I found out my daughter was making these types of statements to peers, she would be facing some serious consequences at home. Some people say they don’t have time to talk to their kids – it doesn’t have to be a long thing, start them young, talk about it often through the years at breakfast or in the car on the way to soccer/daycare/babysitter/school/mall/walmart, whatever. Then move on to school, start it in kindergarten or preschooland continue it throughout all school years. Teaching tolerance, respect, etc. Our schools need school counselors who teach curriculums including these things. Teachers are trained to teach. Counselors are trained to run educational groups including these topics and many others as well as COUNSEL children who are victims as well as the offenders to resolve situations. If school counselors were more prevalent, more active, visible, and actively running groups/teaching counseling curriculum, we would be able to seriously curb these types of incidents.



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Your Name

posted April 1, 2010 at 4:01 pm


Dear Joe,
I DO work in a school and DO know what goes on. The whole system needs to be revamped when it comes to bullying problem as well as many other issues. I would love to say the parents of the victim maybe could have caught what was going on before she killed herself. However, it’s not realistic. If we MUST send our kids to school, we expect the school should act in the place of the parent for the hours they are there. If children came to my home to play I would not ignore bullying going on under my nose. I also would hope the parents of the bullies would have been able to instill better values so their children would not be so mean. Unfortunately, the world we live in is not made of roses and lollipops. In the world I work in, 50% of the little girls I see have been raped by a family member before the age of 15 and their parents can’t read and are afraid of police so it’s not reported or they don’t want the family member to be introuble so they ignore it. Counting on a good start in the home is not an option. So, do we give up and let it all go to hell in a handbasket? No, if we want to be a productive society, we try to do something about it. Yes, it starts at home, but when that doesn’t work, it goes on to school. Education is a global thing. Schools don’t just teach material to be tested. In order for a student to be successful, they need to be well rounded and able to get along with others. Pre-K 101. We need more school counselors, they need to be visible, and teach a counseling curriculum. They need to be aware of these situations and get involved.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted April 1, 2010 at 11:16 pm


Anyone recall the final scene in C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair? I might not have always agreed with Lewis if we were co-principals of a school, but there are times when it would do some good for a band of bullies who are indulged by the school administration to be chased by the flats of two swords, and a whip, while observing the rear end of a lion at the top of the hill. People who care about civil rights, human rights, and/or liberty, need to recognize that a gang of bullies is the primary form of a despotic government, and needs to be crushed just as much as any other form of tyranny. That done, it is entirely possible that the individuals involved could be cured, improved, or could straighten themselves out.



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Eileen

posted April 2, 2010 at 7:54 am


I don’t understand why teachers, administrators and other school personnel who were aware that Phoebe Prince was the target of extreme bullying, did not report this to either the police or Mass. Dept. of Social Services by filing a 51A report. See Massachusetts General Laws, CHAPTER 119. PROTECTION AND CARE OF CHILDREN, AND PROCEEDINGS AGAINST THEM. They were all mandated reporters and required, by law, to report. I can’t imagine that the district attorney doesn’t know this. Ms. Scheibel notes that no laws were broken by their inaction. Not true!



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Ken Leibow

posted April 2, 2010 at 11:18 am


I am a parent of two teenagers. This is an outrage! Phoebe died a needless death. This could have definitely been prevented. School administrators and some teachers at South Hadley High School should be at least fired! Zero tolerance! The administrators and teachers of this school have permitted a hostile environment to evolve, and they never took corrective action. The highest priority and sense of urgency should be on everyone’s radar when it comes to the safety and welfare of our children. The teachers and school administrators are responsible for educating our children and providing a safe environment to learn. After a thorough investigation, I believe some of these South Hadley school administrators, teachers and parents have accountability and should pay by way of the criminal and civil court system. What disgusts me the most is that these criminal students still bullied Phoebe on her memorial websites. Where is the remorse for the death of Phoebe and her family from the parents of these bullies? Where is the remorse from the South Hadley High School Superintendant and Principal? Where is the remorse from the South Hadley School teachers? Human rights, civil rights and the life of Phoebe Prince has been violated and destroyed. All direct and indirect parties involved including students and adults should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I applaud the district attorney and hope she has the courage to bring justice to this horrific crime. This is tragic. May Phoebe Prince rest in peace…



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Eric Schneider

posted April 3, 2010 at 2:10 am


I too was bullied when I was in school and, like the case of Phoebe Prince, faculty and employees of the school looked the other way. That is, of course, until the day I fought back; the bully suffered a broken nose and an extracted (knocked-out) tooth. It was then that teachers and school staff took notice and referred to me as an animal. Isn’t that typical?
The Animal Control Issue that exists in South Hadley High School involves the bullies who harassed Phoebe Prince until she took her own life. Those bullies are the animals, worthless biomass who are breathing our oxygen; they are nothing more than cloggers of society’s arteries, simple human trash. These animals should be put to sleep so that we may clean the human gene pool.
Isn’t it convenient, for South Hadley High School, that their website has been disabled? It seems that these lightweights can’t handle the hate email. The cold and incompetent faculty and administrators of this second-rate high school would rather hide than take responsibility for what they let happen to Phoebe Prince.
In the wake of this tragedy, my only comfort is that there is justice in the universe; for the barely-human trash that harassed Phoebe and the cowardly idiots who permitted it, there exists a painful hell for them to burn in. If there is any humanity left in them (that is, if there was ever any to begin with, but I doubt it), they should fear God. However, they may not be intelligent enough to understand this.



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Francis Talk

posted April 4, 2010 at 4:36 pm


This is a the WORST thing that can HAPPEN and YES teachers are at fault cause they pick and choose who they will care for and who they won’t !!! I have seen this as I was in school It comes to who is who and what you have or who is the prettiest and who is handsome all others are put in other lots who is shy or who is not worth it !!! WHAT IS BEING LEARNED in OUR school !!! You can say the bad word but can’t help students !!! SHAME SHAME on the TEACHERS may you8 sleep with that all your life !!!



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kelly

posted April 5, 2010 at 3:37 pm


I think the student should be exspelled from school. They are a danger to the other children and have gotten the message that the school will let them do whatever they want. With no action taken against them. For the school officials and teacher who said they didn’t know what was going on. There either lying or blind. Teachers hear and see a lot more than they let on. Having done nothing to aid that little girl and having failed her as teacher and human beings they have her death on there hands also. They should have made atleast an annoucment stating there no zero policy on bullying and pull those bullies into the office when the few kids who did alert the administration told them and made it clear in no uncertian terms that bullying would not be tolerated and could lead up to exspolsion. It also makes one wonder what kinda parents did they children have that they raised such vicious children ,nd don’t they keep tabs on the electronic world there children live in. These student should be prosecuted to the fullest exstent of the law.They knew what they were doing and they don’t care that know a little dead.



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rossi

posted April 9, 2010 at 11:03 am


thank you for this
and you are so right
there are many heads that should have been put in that noose
and none of them were phoebe’s
i was moved to tears by her story and it reminded me of much of my own
i dedicated my blog to phoebe this weekend
but it’s not enough
i think schools don’t protect children until the bullying becomes physical
but emotional bullying and torment can be, just as painful



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Miyamoto Isoruku

posted April 9, 2010 at 3:59 pm


These so-called Mean Girls were abominable, but then what they did is, sadly, natural amongst girls that age (on that note I would advise Mr. Schneider to watch his language–very ugly things lie down that road). The ones who are really guilty here are the so-called “adults” who allowed this to continue ad infinitum, without any kind of intervention, for months. They knew better. They have no excuse. They should be fired, and sued for every last penny they are worth.



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Chris

posted April 10, 2010 at 5:04 am


I feel bad for all involved, but seriously… FELONY charges for bullying?!? This country is getting a little insane now. I know, I know, everyone feels sorry for the victim, she killed herself. However, thousands of children every year get bullied (I’m sure plenty worse than her) and never kill themselves. It’s unfortunate that the victim in this case was mentally unstable enough to commit suicide but that should be no reason to press felony charges. That is a terrible circumstance, but it’s certainly not worthy of felony charges for the kids involved.
I was bullied A LOT when I was a kid. The very first day I attended elementary school even. My mom dropped me off and after entering the school gates I was jumped by 5 kids! Before I even knew what a school or a teacher was! It’s a part of life. You’re always going to be picked on by people bigger than you, older than you, taller than you, more popular than you, in a more senior position than you, etc. This “bullying” that the media makes out as an epidemic in school is really a part of human nature. In the workplace, in the streets, hell, even when ordering food at McDonalds, there are plenty of places in this day and age where even adults get bullied.
If you’re too weak or too unstable to handle this part of life, then you either need to toughen up or become a shut-in because it doesn’t get any better unless you’re willing to do something about it. I became stronger because of it. You either get stronger or you die, that’s always been the way of life (see Darwin). This girl chose to die. Unfortunate but unavoidable. I know I sound cold but I just can’t bring myself to feel sympathy for someone who knowingly took their own life by their own hands. Too many people have it WAY TOO HARD in this world for anyone to feel sorry for themselves. I’m sorry this upper class white student from suburbia had it tough, but I’m pretty sure, actually I’m 100% certain, the little 12 year old girl in Darfur who just inherited the title of Mom because her parents got shot by a crazy militia gang and now, no matter how much she wants to end it she can’t because she’s the eldest and has to care for her younger siblings, has it worse. Sure, it’s a hypothetical, but based on the atrocities I’ve seen is actually a lighter more kid-friendly version of the truth.
Now, to press felony charges against the bullies is a going a little extreme. This is saying something because I hate bullies. I was bullied by kids 3-4 times my size for years. I learned how to defend myself and then sought out bullies and put them in their place (see Karate Kid if you want a Hollywood example of how this works).
If anyone should face serious charges it should be the teachers and administration. They are the ones responsible for maintaining a safe environment for your children. They failed, so the kids are facing felony charges? Nonsense. Everyone in this country is so afraid of reprimanding school authorities and I have no idea why! For example, child molester teachers can’t even get fired, they only get moved to other schools where nobody has heard of them before! That right there tells you something is wrong with the checks and balances in our school systems.
The only reason this is making a huge stir is because the victim is a photogenic Caucasian girl. There are children who are abused, bullied, and victimized thousands of times worse than this little girl (God rest her soul), but they are minorities that attend high risk schools. It always makes me sick to my stomach when the media and the courts decide to cherry pick the victims whom they put on their pedestal. I was lucky enough to get out of the slums and get a real education, but I still had friends who had to rough it out in some of those forsaken schools. So they slandered her name and hit her books out of her hands on a daily basis, the kids at these underprivileged schools have to choose between joining a gang or submitting their whole family to urban terrorism (and of course joining the gang for ‘protection’ usually leads to casualties anyways). I’m sure some of these kids kill themselves over that kind of pressure and torment, but it never makes the news like this. And the courts sure don’t press felony charges against anyone involved there.



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Camille

posted April 10, 2010 at 8:21 pm


In response to Chris’s comments about felony charges for teenagers – if the State of Massachusetts believes that 16-year old youths can make decisions about their sexual behavior and take responsibility for the possible consequences, then it must also concede that 16-year olds can know the difference between collegial, friendly behavior and abusive, harassing behavior. If these charged teenagers were on the receiving end of their treatment, do you think that they would have felt as threatened as Phoebe did? I do. By the age of 16, teenagers should have already learned lessons about personal space and proprietary behavior.



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Kristi K

posted April 11, 2010 at 7:37 pm


Bullying is not OK no matter what the degree of the bullying is. I too was bullied and teased by bullies from 5th grade on through high school by various students for different reasons. Being bullied by others, in my opinion, begins at home where the parents teach the children that bullying is okay, and it is NOT okay in my way of thinking. I know and understand that everyone of us have our reason to feel that bullying is what it is and to what degree bullying is. We do have the right to live in a safe environment and schools should be a safe environment and in some cases, school is not a safe environment for some. Bullying is not okay!! I have read all the posts so far for this article about Phoebe Prince and I have watched Dr. Phil’s television segment on Bullied to Death and my heart went out to the family of Phoebe Prince the other “victims” of being bullied. I actually cried and wondered why things have gotten so bad in our own country. The learning process begins at home and if parents do not teach their children right, there will be dire consequences. I believe the teens who bullied Phoebe Prince for 3 months should be disciplined/punished the way they need to be punished for what they did. No child should be victimized or bullied to the point of killing themselves and then victimized after death as Phoebe Prince was as if it was a wonderful thing of what the teens did. I have heard and seen what was shared on Dr. Phil’s segment on “Bullied to Death” and I find that the school has overlooked and denied so much about the bullying and there should be an investigation into what really went on. I believe that the principal and the teachers who apparently overlooked and denied what was going on in the school should also be prosecuted as well. I have to give credit to the teacher(s) who did do something in effort of helping Phoebe Prince.
Now, for Chris’ post, I have to admit that I am understanding on what he has said and feels, but I have to admit that I have to disagree with some of his reasons at this time. No one needs to be victimized or feel they are being victimized at any given time in the school system. No one has the right to be the victimizer either. I believe that Phoebe Prince has gotten to the point of destruction and her death could have been avoided and she would be alive if the school system handled the problem more carefully.



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jon osborn

posted April 12, 2010 at 10:05 am


This is to chris. You have got to be kidding, the guy that took advangage of this young girl was one of the bullies. I need you to think if this was your little girl I know you would feel diffrently.
Jon Osborn



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Regina White

posted April 17, 2010 at 11:04 am


The pseudo adults in this case ALLOWED this bullying to continue and thus their inaction lead to Phoebe feeling she had no protection from her aggressors.
Gus Sayer, as Superintendent of South Hadley schools, KNEW of these bullying acts and he CHOSE to do NOTHING. He should be effectively removed for his position immediately as none of these children are safe under his position. To think he went on record to blame “tv, radio, and internet games” as well as the breakdown of 2 parent homes as the reason for relational aggression …
3 questions need to be asked to South Hadley officials to show their lack of concern, effort, and resolution.
1) After having a profession inservice given in September 2009 on bullying, how was “bullying” defined and what were the ramnifications to be netted to offenders?
2) How was “bullying” redefined after Phoebe’s 1/14/10 demise and again, what were the punishments to the aggressors to be?
3) What, if anything, did the school officials do to comfort the grieving students and the Prince family?



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Jamie

posted May 6, 2010 at 9:20 am


For chris’s comment Phoebe Prince i guess wasn’t as tough as you’d expect others to be but you have got to be kidding ! These girls tormented Phoebe that she committed suicide, like are you serious ? I disagree with you 100%. I know that, that is how you feel but then again not everyone is mentally stable.



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VSEPR

posted May 24, 2010 at 11:19 pm


Rod, your analysis is very perceptive and one of the better presentations that I have encountered in my research of this tragedy for my wife’s Law II classes. The South Hadley school system is either a case study in horrendous crisis management or is engaged in a sordid coverup in anticipation of civil liabilty in Phoebe’s suicide. These are essentially bureaucrats defending their turf. A turf in which the status quo is where the “cool kids” actually run the school. The alleged bullies let things spiral out of control because they did not fear any serious repurcussions from the administration. It didn’t actually occur under the radar. Rather, the students themselves manned the radar.
The South Hadley school system also seem to have the support of the majority of the South Hadley community who seem to wish that Phoebe Prince had never intruded into their idyllic playground and focused the media spotlight on a toxic (but not unusual) school culture. Since they believe they answer only to the community, they can act any way that maintains that support. “Papal in their arrogance” one commentator aptly noted. What can you expect when the administration allows a “peace demonstration” hosted by a former fan of “We Killed Phoebe Prince” and the committee to write a new school policy on bullying has been overheard to say that she supports the alleged bullies as being “rightfully upset” with Phoebe and is supported by the Superintendant as “eminently qualified”. Obviously these people don’t have a clue and are just trying to hold onto their jobs anyway that they can.



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