Bullying is a serious problem in the United States. It has always been around on playgrounds, at schools, and in the neighborhood. However, with the widespread use of the Internet, bullying has become more pervasive and yes, virulent.  Verbal taunts and physical threats became a way of life for one  young immigrant girl. 

15-year-old Phoebe Prince was the victim of extreme bullying from her peers. Phoebe, who recently moved  South Hadley, MA from Ireland, was bullied by classmates until she hanged herself in January. The bullying was described as relentless and happened in the halls, at school, in the library, in class, via cell phone messages and on the Internet. Nine teenagers   have been indicted for the death of this young girl.

According to the New York Times:

The prosecutor brought charges Monday against nine teenagers, saying their taunting and physical threats were beyond the pale and led the freshman, Phoebe Prince, to hang herself from a stairwell in January.

The charges were an unusually sharp legal response to the problem of adolescent bullying, which is increasingly conducted in cyberspace as well as in the schoolyard and has drawn growing concern from parents, educators and lawmakers

Of course the tormentors bear the main responsibility for the girl’s death. But are others culpable? How about the parents of those kids? How about the school? How about her friends?  Was anyone aware that this was going on? Didn’t some teacher notice that a child was being tortured? How do parents help their children when they are being bullied? This tragedy seems so avoidable.

13 Thoughts to “Bullied Teen’s Tormentors Indicted”

  1. Diversity Gal

    I am wondering what kind of anti-bullying program her school had. Most of the schools in our area are required to have a systematic plan for preventing and dealing with bullying. However, we would be completely stupid to think that bullying does not occur in those places. It is everywhere, and kids just get better at finding ways to do it. Most of these plans involve the action of bystanders (both adult and student). Studies have shown that their intervention, especially in students, makes the most positive differences. I have found that even though schools put in the planning/discussion time and instructional time for staff and students to learn the ins and outs of the plan (including practicing strategies), it is still very, very difficult to get people to report bullying when they witness it. It’s all about perceived power…

  2. El Guapo

    I had a friend who I suspected was being teased. She was depressed. She didn’t want to go to school. She was short, fat and poor. Some adults in her church encouraged her. She could sing so they encouraged her to sing and complimented her. People brought her birthday presents and Christmas presents. Those people may have saved her. She’ll be graduating this year.

    Phoebe Prince didn’t have that.

  3. Phoebe Prince didn’t have it for sure. She also was an immigrant. This is a horrible way to say ‘welcome to American.’

    Bullying is a very serious problem in schools and on the internet in general. Anonymity adds fuel to the fire. I expect Phoebe’s parent’s were not as helpful as they could be because they were new to the country. This story enrages me. Kids and adults had to know this was going on. Their silence equals complicity.

  4. Wolverine

    I’ve had some direct experience with this kind of thing. I think there are a couple of identifiable problems here. It seems to me that the bullies have managed to perfect their little games to a point that teachers and administrators may not find it all that easy to detect it unless the person being bullied files a complaint, which in itself can turn into a charge without evidence. Much of the bullying is quietly verbal, masked, and deniable, not like the old days when bullied kids of my generation were physically attacked and goaded into fights in the school yard. Secondly, far too often the kids being bullied keep it to themselves. I am aware of a case in which the child kept it a secret from his parents right up until the day of high school graduation. The rationale was that the child feared the parents would make it such a big issue of it at the school that he would become somewhat of a pariah on a grand scale — as if bringing in the parents was the equivalent of being a “snitch” against your own generation.

    But let me point out a case in more specific detail and ask you to decide where the fault lies. A girl in elementary school is being pestered by a male classmate when the teachers are not looking. This pestering consisted of actually grabbing the girl by her developing breasts and by the crotch. Another girl in the class was being treated in the same way. The girl revealed this to her parents, who then went to the school principal to complain and seek a solution. The solution devised by the principal was to bring in the male student in question and, in front of him, ask the two girls what they thought should be done to the boy. The girls just sat there speechless, not having the slightest idea how to handle a situation in which they were suddenly thrust into the role of a judge handing down a sentence. The girls could not answer. Result of the case? The boy was given a scolding and a minor suspension and is probably back in the same school system somewhere. The girl who made the initial complaint to her parents? Her parents took her out of that school system and homeschooled her. In fact, they are now determined to homeschool all of their children because they lost all confidence in that public school system.

  5. @Wolverine -Who is at fault? The principal handled the situation like an idiot. She/he should have brought the parents in and had one of those come to Jesus meetings with them and the boy. Additionally, the boy should have had legal action taken against him.

    You are very right though. Much of the bullying goes on under the radar. Throw in cell phones and computers and it is even more stealth. Nothing is as clear cut as it seems.

    In the old days, bullying was probably just as painful, I don’t know that it was easier to detect. I remember one of the bullies of my youth. Her name was Ann D. She had had polio and was on crutches. She bullied the kids to come to her house to play with her. She said she would tell your parents that you made fun of her because she was crippled and wouldn’t play with her for the same reason. I finally told my mother who wasn’t one who thought you had to be nice to everyone. She told me to stay away from her and so what if she tattled. That took the heat off. Of course, she always had a throng of kids because she held them hostage.

    That experience got me over the idea that you had to like someone because they were ______________. (fill in the blank) (any of the reasons people have that makes them special)

  6. There was a fair amount of bullying towards the admins when this blog started it. I am certain everyone had a day or 2 when they felt it would have been easier to just shut down. But we didn’t.

  7. My nine year daughter has been told that if anyone ever lays hands on her as describe above, to throw an elbow into the idiot’s nose, run, and find a teacher/adult. I used to be bullied. I will not stand for it. I’ve taught her how to defuse a situation, and gone through scenarios, but, in the end, if she feels it necessary to take a physical action, I will back her up.

    That said, she doesn’t get picked on. Thank God.

  8. Good for you, Cargo! You have given your daughter life skills that will help her know what to do when you aren’t around to watch over her. I think this is something all kids need to know. I feel certain you also covered would-be abductors.

    You are to be commended for not ‘treating her like a girl’ also.

  9. She doesn’t “act” like a girl. Tomboy all the way. Had her own throwing axe in 2nd grade. She won it at the Highland games. Because I paid a couple of buck to take a few tries at the target, she had to, also. Miss. Miss. Bullseye. Got her a “kid size” hawk. Has a BB gun and wants to shoot archery. And wants a rifle. As long as its not pink.

    Likes “boy toys” because they are more fun. And If I tried to get her into a dress……ooof.

    Though she will put on fingernail polish.

  10. Wolverine

    Are ye a Highlander then, Cargo? One of the nicer times of my own life was attendance at the Highland Games in Braemar, near Balmoral. Nothing sends a shiver up my spine faster than the first sound of the wail of the pipes as a clan comes walking through the braes to the games. And I’m not even Scottish!!!

  11. There apparently are more kids involved in this case than have been reported.

    More kids bullied and more kids pulled. Stay tuned.

  12. A psychologist is on Faux now explaining that bullying becomes more impersonal and expontial because of technology. People don’t have to attach to their characters and can inflict real misery. That phenomena has been seen on blogs and in chat rooms. People can be anyone they want to be.

    The technology also allows for more stalkng and less ability on the part of someone being bullied to escape when they go home. The bullying follows them. To Fox New’s credit, they have been all over this story. Saying somethhing good about Fox News and our aG in one day is too much for me.

  13. Rick Bentley

    “A psychologist is on Faux now explaining that bullying becomes more impersonal and expontial because of technology.”

    Yes I’ve even seen so-called Christians engage in it on a board I used to frequent.

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