This past week nine teenagers were charged in the brutal bullying case of a recently immigrated teen from Ireland. Two of them were also charged with rape. The teen committed suicide as a result of her treatment by classmates. Phoebe Prince was only 15 years old and had only recently moved to the Western Massachusetts town of Hadley.
But she was tormented and harassed following her rape. Evidently they did this not only at school and after school but online as well. They literally drover her to her death. And the worst part about it is that according to some reports school officials knew about the harassment and torture and did nothing to prevent it or get involved.
WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? Clearly the school officials were not.
Now the District Attorney says no criminal charges will be brought against school authorities. They should have to answer for not intervening. They should be removed from the school. And there should be re-training for all of the Massachusetts school officials.
Ironically there is a wonderful study guide done by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts called “Direct from the Field: A Guide to Bullying Prevention.” It was published in 2007 as a Joint Project of The Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes,The Massachusetts Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth,and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Three years before this incident. Read the full report here.
There are some remarkable findings about bullying in the opening of this report
- Analysis of high-profile school shootings such as Santana, Columbine, and Virginia Tech reveals that up to 71 percent involved attacker(s) who felt bullied, persecuted, attacked, or injured
- Around 160,000 school children stay home from school each day out of fear anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and physical and mental symptoms often without telling their parents
- Children targeted by bullies experience higher than normal levels of insecurity domestic violence, and other violent crimes
- While the problem is prevalent––up to 80 percent of adolescents report being bullied during their school years––students report that 71 percent of teachers or other adults in the
classroom ignore bullying incidents.
- Adults often either justify their lack of action with longheld myths (“bullying is a part of growing up”) or are simply unprepared to intervene effectively.
If this was already part of the Massachusetts mindset and the research had been done years ago–why did the death of Phoebe Prince happen? Why did school authorities do nothing? And why too is this report not being utilized throughout Massachusetts?
It was only earlier in March that the Massachusetts legislature passed anti-bullying legislation. Too late for Phoebe and for 11 year suicide victim Carl Walker – Hoover who was also the butt of bullying.
This is a serious problem and deserves all of our attention. Attention to our young people and to each of us and how we handle and talk about our problems. Speech matters.
Today is the fourth day of counting the omer.
Hillel’s golden rule still matter: “Do not do unto your neighbor that which you would not do to you yourself.
The ethical matters. The way we treat one another matters.
May Phoebe and Carl’s memory live for a blessing.