Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cyberbullies Update - Criminal Action Against Students Suspected of Bullying Pheobe Prince

I first wrote about the suicide of 15 year-old Phoebe Prince in my little New England town of South Hadley, MA on February 1 in a post titled Cyberbullies. I know this terrible story has hit national and local news around the world - if you haven't seen details - here's an update from a local article at

Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel Monday announced the indictments of six teenagers accused of having bullied Phoebe so severely September through January that she hanged herself Jan. 14.

The district attorney also said she has taken out complaints in Hampshire-Franklin Juvenile Court against three female juveniles in the matter.

Charges in the indictments range from statutory rape to stalking and civil rights violations in the harassment of Phoebe, a resident of Ireland who moved to town in the fall and enrolled in South Hadley High School as a ninth grader.

On Monday, District Attorney Scheibel provided an account of Phoebe’s final hours:

On the last day of her life, Phoebe N. Prince was harassed in the South Hadley High School library during lunch period, harassed in the school hallway as the final bell rang and harassed as she walked home along Newton Street.

The 15-year-old sophomore finally made it home to 356 Newton St. and, sometime between 2:48 and 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 14, ended more than four months of relentless bullying by hanging herself in the stairwell leading to her family’s second-floor apartment. She was still wearing the clothes she wore to school.

Pheobe's little sister found her hanging in that stairwell when she came home from school.

Here's more from Scheibel:

Three individuals – a male and two females – were involved in assaultive behavior against Prince on that last day, motivated by the group’s displeasure with Phoebe’s brief dating relationship with the male student.

Amid the details of names and charges, Scheibel painted a scenario in which Prince went through daily hell at school for months while most of the student body, along with some faculty and administrators, knew what was happening but failed to act.

The investigation revealed relentless activity directed toward Phoebe, designed to humiliate her and to make it impossible for her to remain at school.

The bullying, for her, became intolerable.

Amazingly - according to Scheibel - Facebook and Craigslist have been little help:

A significant obstacle and delay for investigators in this case has been the inexplicable lack of cooperation from Internet service providers.... in particular, Facebook and Craigslist.

There are also still some very serious (non-criminal according to the DA) issues to be dealt with by this town including the faculty and administrators who are alleged to have known what was happening to Phoebe but failed to act.

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