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Cyber Bullying Victim Hangs Herself

January 28, 2010 at 3:33 am by  

MASS – Phoebe Prince was a young girl who emigrated from Ireland to America last fall. Months later, on Jan 14th, the 15 year old was found dead after she had hung herself in her Massachusetts home. Only after this gruesome death has the truth about how she was treated as a high school freshmen begin to come out. On a Facebook page made in her honor, her family was surprised to see rude and even taunting comments posted about her. Classmates also started to admit that Phoebe was being harassed  and “bullied constantly” via text messages and Facebook posts.  The school admits they were aware, to an extent, that Phoebe was having problems; in a letter to the parents, the South Hadley High principle wrote “These disagreements centered on relationship and dating issues. School personnel immediately intervened . . . and both counseled and provided consequences as the situations required. It is what happened after those incidents were over that is cause for significant concern.’’ Perhaps Phoebe’s sad suicide and the attention it’s getting can prevent other teens from the same fate – but are schools prepared to deal with cyber bullying? Is it even within the scope of their responsibility?

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  • sarabei

    This one really gets to me. I have read every article I could find on this and apparently she was taunted, chased, and harassed at school; even so far as having a drink thrown at her as she walked home. It was over a guy apparently that was interested in Phoebe and the girl he wasn't interested in was the one of the ones stalking her. Home is “supposed” to be a safe place for you; but with the net, etc. how safe can you feel at this age? I don't know. It really isn't the schools place to monitor what happens off campus; but if the parents don't then what? There is no sense in someone being harassed to this point; it needs to be dealt with but how? Where is the line that says officials (school etc.) have gone to far? Where do the parents responsibilities about this kick in? Maybe the parents should be held accountable as well? Would that help?

  • Maleficent

    I always felt the same way about the Megan Meier case too, Sarabei. While I in no way support or condone the actions of Lori Drew, Megan's mother was the last person to interact with Megan right before she hanged herself. If I recall correctly, her reaction to Megan's obvious emotional state over the entire cyberbullying activity that night on Myspace was to chastise her for being on the internet when she had told her not to do so. While I would never blame Megan's mother for Megan's death, is she really any less culpable than Lori Drew? If I were Megan Meier's mother, I'd probably have noosed myself up rather than go on a rampage against Lori Drew; while what Lori Drew was wrong and unforgiveable, I do not consider it nearly as repugnant as a mother NOT reaching out to her distraught daughter (who had a history of depression and a previous suicide attempt) and instead choosing to chastise Megan for breaking the rule of being online.

    Different perspectives, I guess, with everyone blaming everyone else.

    You're quite right about something needing to be done to stop this type of behavior, but what? Raise our children to be a bit thicker skinned and realistic about life instead of coddling them? When a bully can be irrefutably identified, suspend them from the public school system? Well, that wouldn't stop them, since they coud continue harassment via the internet from home. Fine/penalize the parents? They'd probably remain in denial that their “baby” could engage in such antics.

    The answer is out there somewhere…the question is, where?

  • We have been talking about this in the forums. I feel for the friends and family of Phoebe, but I feel the school did what they were required to do with the information they had at the time, and have ultimately suspended the minors allegedly responsible. Bullying is a fact of life and people will experience it at all ages. But I will never agree to filing charges against minors because a minor they picked on killed themselves.

    I know that this is not a popular opinion, but unless the girl was being physically abused or felt that her life was in mortal danger, I just cannot condone charging teenagers for calling someone mean names. You want stiffer anti-bullying laws? Go for it. It wont stop anything, as teens are pretty resilient (and not sure if anyone realizes, teens also break the law – shocker, I know) but whatever makes people feel their kids are safer I guess.

    But as people have pointed out, and then get accused of blaming the victim when they do, if someone takes their own life – especially over being harassed by peers in a non-physical manner – there was much more wrong than bullying.

    Lastly, for all the commentors on other sites screaming for the accused names so they can show them what it feels like to be bullied. What a bunch of hypocrites. Let's say you get what you want, and as was seen with Lori Drew, you all wage a harassment campaign against the two minors who bullied this girl that leads to one of them hanging themselves. Should we congratulate you for a job well done? Give you thanks for getting a similar response from doing EXACTLY what you state you abhor?

    I'm not saying I know what the answer is, and maybe stiffer ant-bullying laws will help deter this kind of shit. Who knows. But to try and charge anyone with some type of wrongful death because a girls was getting her feelings hurt is a scary proposition and one you may want to think about the next time you get into an argument with someone online. God forbid someone kill themselves over something you said to them on Facebook.

    I will now don my flame retardant suit…

  • mom2tbet

    There used to be a fairly well-defined line between school life and home life. With the introduction of the internet/cellphones/texting, the line has been irreparably blurred. I was once bullied for something someone *thought* I said. Life at school was hell for about a week until a new victim was chosen. But I had the ability to go home and not worry about it until the next day. No one was in my computer hounding me or on my phone at all hours keeping the issues at a forefront in my head. And as for the bullies – the presence of all of this technology is fodder for the fire. There is no respite to allow them to lose the emotional charge that powers their actions.

    Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. The internet is not going away and kids cannot be un-introduced to cell phones. Parents are too cavalier about arming their kids with proverbial guns and then scratch their heads when someone gets shot.

  • I remember things differently. Someone bullied at school, depending on why they were being bullied, would get it out of school as well. If they were seen in public, they got it. Their houses or if older, vehicles, were vandalized. But in almost every case, there were no “OFF” switches to any of those types of bullying tactics.

    Yet now, even though someone can choose just not to look on Facebook, or block people from their profile, people are killing themselves over being harassed. This has nothing to do with an increase in bullying, as there will always be bullies. It has very little to do with the new ways people can be bullied.

    It is to a large degree, a question on why some kids are lacking the coping mechanisms needed in these situations that are in the thousands of other kids who are bullied and do not solve the issue by hanging at the end of a rope.

  • sarabei

    Morbid, I think you make some very valid points as does Maleficent. I honestly don't know what the answer is. I agree with you, the school did what it could. My first knee jerk reaction IS to think the school should have done more. But logically, they can't police people off campus, that is beyond what a school is intended to be or do.

    Also, this one breaks my heart, and I hate feeling this feeling, but WHY, WHY would someone let something like this cause them to end their life? Maybe there was more going on below the surface. Maybe she felt suffocated and like her suffering would never end? Maybe she had a history of depression? Maybe being so far from home? I don't know.

    I want to smack the shit out of the kids who were so mean, but as has been pointed out, that is a fact of life. People (and kids too) can be SO cruel! We see that here everyday. I still the the parents who raise these little shits should have to actually parent/monitor what their spawn a bit better.

    Somehow awareness needs to be raised with these kids, while they didn't actually KILL Phoebe, their lack of sympathy and caring, even if they didn't like her, is appalling. To be so insensitive to a life lost; a sad sad thing and what kind of adults are these people going to grow into?

  • sarabei

    What do you think the issue is that causes the kids to do this? I remember some kids liked me more than others in school. I got on the wrong sides of some kids once; they called the house and threatened me, threatened to kick my ass if they saw me. I was in the process of moving at the time (I was 14 and leaving home to move in with my grandparents). I actually ran into one of the girls and she threatened me, I laughed at her and walked on home. The calls eventually stopped when they didn't evoke a response. I never actually thought of that as bullying…but I guess it was? The new school I went to, while that type of thing didn't happen, the usual conflicts would arise, etc. But it always just blew over. Do you reckon kids today aren't taught the old sticks and stones addage? Are the kids today more intense and stubborn about letting things go?

  • darsa

    As long as the teen who's being “called mean names” isn't charged when he/she punches the bully's lights out, I'm okay with it being “okay”.

    Was bullied in high school, so severely that I dropped out in 10th grade, and never went back. Got my GED, some college, doing well now… but my experiences in school with bullies will always be with me.

  • deliatheartist

    One possible solution that I don't think has been talked about here or by the school is offering the person being bullied some counseling and guidance. As Morbid said, you can't really stop bullying, and we all should realize that we can't change other people. The only real answer then is to attempt to change the way we respond to them. It's clear that if someone would commit suicide over being harassed, they needed psychological help, and perhaps anyone dealing with extreme bullying could use a little help. Teach the kids real techniques and methods to psychologically prepare, handle and respond to bullies. De-stigmatize the idea of getting help- or if that's totally impossible in a high school setting, make counseling available privately. Extend the idea to the parents so that guidance can continue beyond the school. Focus more on helping the victims instead of stopping the bullies.

  • I actually agree with Morbid. Bullying sucks…straight up SUCKS, but its not a crime. Facebook has this thing called “Block”…and Block on Facebook means they just disappear from everything to the person they've blocked. I know that eventually it will change, but at the moment, as a parent I am maybe a bit OVERzealous about taking care of it myself. I had an issue with my 6-year old daughter in which a girl was not only verbally harrassing my daughter, but was PHYSICALLY hurting her every day. When I finally got it out of my daughter, I told her to just tell the girl that she didn't want to be her friend anymore and didn't want to talk to her anymore. The next day, Nova (my oldest) came home and told me that the little girl wouldn't take that as an answer, so she told the teacher. When the teacher asked the other girl about the situation, she started crying and told the teacher that Nova said she didn't want to be her friend anymore. The teacher…made my daughter apologize for making the other girl cry. WHAT!??! Believe you me, that teacher got an earful that afternoon when Nova came home. The teacher has done nothing to prevent these things since then…in fact she came home recently saying the same girl had been bothering her again.

    I guess I just don't understand how it even got to the point that it did. Why was it not being addressed and maintained within the school and if not, with the parents? My daughter, I think, is pretty thick-skinned as you say…I think I took it harder than she did. I really don't think she'll ever let it get her down. When I was a teenager and younger, I never let things people said bother me, because I could always come home and tell my parents and I would be told different, I had friends to back me up. I wish the same on my children, that they are able to take from me and their friends that they should be confident no matter what some bully says to them.

    I just hope that my kids don't encounter many careless people that allow these things to happen.

  • I'm glad you are doing well now, I dropped out as a senior due to bullying. I was right about to turn 18 and I didn't want to chance an adult record. My juvenile record is as long as my arm for knocking some lights out. I also got my GED, at 22, and some college. I am also starting my own business and (hopefully) about to buy a home. I looked at one of the girls myspace that bullied me and she lives in a 1960's single-wide trailer and works at McDonald's and is on food stamps and medicaid to support her husband and 3 kids. She is 30 and looks old enough to be my mother. Poetic justice!

  • darsa

    Ahh, got to love it when the ol' Karma comes through for you 😀 Sounds like you're doing pretty awesome yourself, congrats!

  • tricia381

    She was beautiful. Someone should have been there for her to talk to and to help her get through the bullying. She had to be having a hard time adjusting to life in a new country.
    when I was younger I remember the school system actually involved in what happened to and from school and even if there were situations that didnt involve the school the school would make it their business and punish kids for things that happened that wasnt on the schools time. I thought that was unfair since it had nothing to do with the school. Maybe schools should be more involved in things that happen outside of school. Not to punish the kids, but to talk with them and help both parties involved deal with the situation.
    My oldest who is 8 and in the third grade was being bullied. I was pissed that her teacher would just blow it off and not do anything about the notes I sent to her. Finally we just started talking to Caitlynn and told her that sometimes kids have problems at home or with other kids and they just take it out on other kids. We told her that we love her and that she can talk to us about anything. That helped a little but she was still being bullied at school. So dad told her to tell the other girl to go “eat dirt” whenever she said something mean to her. I guess that helped since now the two are friends lol. Kids.

  • butterfly_girl

    You've all made very valid points. I think the school did what it legally could. I have an 18 yr old son that I taught at a very early age to just walk away. Most bullies go away eventually, although it's much harder with this age of cell phones and computers. I also told him that I would beat the shit out of him if he ever bullied someone, either physically or electronically. I do think that kids who take their own lives may not mean to. They're impulsive, dramatic, and can't foresee the longterm effect of suicide which is you're dead and it's forever. It's a short term decision, meaning they haven't put much thought into it. Parents need to teach their kids to toughen up and ignore bullies. There will always be some asshole that's bigger, meaner, and out to prove something no matter how old you are. It may be someone you have to work for or marry into the family. If schools could provide some kind of mediation and counseling for the victims, I think that may help. Schools are limited to the scope of what goes on in school. I also feel that parents of bullies need to be made accountable in some way for their asshole kids. Bullying usually starts at home by a parent. Then these groups of followers pick it up, too, because most kids are too stupid to figure out how terrible cyber-bullying is. They just think of it as harmless fun. They're doing it anonymously so they're not seeing the victim's face so they don't see the impact. When I was a kid, you'd just go fight it out somewhere or get someone to beat the bully up. School wasn't involved, parents weren't involved and the bully was taught a very painful lesson. Now if you do that to a bully, it's a felony and a civil suit. How I long for the good old days!

  • butterfly_girl

    Me, too. And good for you, Anna! I love hearing a success story and what I love even more is the karmic debt that bully has incurred. You reap what you sow and the sad thing is, she's probably raising another generation of bullies, too. Don't give up and just remember what a good person you are and that you DESERVE to have a wonderful life!

  • defenestratethis

    This all so incredibly sad. That beautiful young girl must have gone through hell, emotionally and mentally. How I wish she felt there was some other way out. I worked in a public high school for eight years..and boy, it sure is different now. Yes, I am an old geezer, but it seems like 'back in the day' the teachers were responsible for academia with little need to provide social and moral guidance, because that was the parents job. Unfortunately today, more and more kids coming into the classroom are going home to… hell, who knows what? I know of many students who went home to crack houses, students for whom the only meal of their day was the school lunch, students who, though provided for very well materially, were always ALONE at home cuz the parents were off working or vacationing, students who went home to abusive relatives…and on and on. I was also struck by the high percentage of kids bearing the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, as well as kids born to meth addicted mothers…and so many kids not even living with their parents cuz theyve been made wards of the court. Now, the thing is…what can we expect from a kid who has NO idea how to act in a social setting? And how productive can our limited remedies go for such a child when he's going home each day to the same grim environment? I'm not placing the entire blame on parents ( or the lack thereof ) nor do I feel the school system is wholly at fault. I'll tell ya, theres a lot of jaded teachers who just want to make it through the day without incident, and the same I'm sure, holds true for many parents. Wish I knew the answer..if there is one. Guess thats the main reason I'm not in that field anymore. Its just too depressing for me… R.I.P. Phoebe Prince

  • lostfingrocks

    About a day ago i read an article in the news that stated,Nine students face charges in connection with the girl's death, including two teen boys charged with statutory rape and a clique of girls charged with stalking, criminal harassment and violating Phoebe's civil rights. At least the family can have some peace now.

  • appalled72

    Honestly, I wonder what took so long. I've been reading all of your posts and agree that vicitims of bullies should be taught how to deal with it. I make no apologies for saying this:

    The bullies are the ones in need of “reprimand”. Just because “mommy doesn't love me enough” and “daddy hits me” doesn't give “me” the right to be mean to someone else. What I'm reading is that bullies are out there and we can't do anything about it. BULLSHIT!!! What if we said “victims are out there and we can't do anything about it. Let's just move on”? The vicitms need help and the bullies need punishment.

    I taught my son at a very young age not to be a bully, and not to be bullied. I taught him to walk away if he could, but never to walk away from a sucker punch. He has always had my permission to fight “back”. He's had to fight back and has never been bullied. He has also stuck up for other kids who were being bullied. In the first grade a boy was bullying a little girl. He literally had her cornered on the side of the school building by the playground. My son got in trouble at school. When I asked the teacher why, she said for being where he wasn't supposed to be and for not telling an adult about the situation, and rather taking care of it himself. Given what the teachers at Phoebe's school did, or shall we say, “didn't do”, I'm glad I taught my son to help others who couldn't help themselves. The school wasn't going to do anything about it anyway.

    As far as bullying not being a crime, I bet if someone took the time to really look into the laws as they are written, they'd find that it probably is. Perhaps not in every case, but think about it. If I'm walking the halls and school and kids are bullying me i.e. making threats, etc. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure I don't meet up with those kids during the times they are in that particular hallway. If I'm successful, and they “seek” me out, (hanging around waiting for me to show up, come looking for me for the express purpose of harassing me, just to name a couple of examples) that should be considered stalking. There are stalking laws.

    If they are knocking books out of my hands, then they are “touching”! Why isn't that a crime? Why shouldn't it be?

    One other thing before I log off. These kids who were stalking this poor girl are old enough to drive a car, leaving the lives of others in their hands. In just a few months, they will be old enough to carry a gun into combat, vote, run for office, move out on their own. Yet some say that they don't know what they're doing. That they don't understand the long term effects of what they're doing. If that is in fact the case, then God help us all!

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