Phoebe Price was 15 years old, beautiful and an Irish transfer student at South Hadley High School in Western Massachusetts. After dating a senior football player for a brief period, Phoebe became the target of a group of girls that have since become known as the Mean Girls. The Mean Girls are seven girls that have been charged by District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel. The mean girls are not what you might expect; they are pretty, popular, good students and good athletes.
"My investigation revealed unrelenting activity directed toward Phoebe designed to humiliate her and to make it impossible for her to remain at school," said Scheibel. "Her books were routinely knocked out of her hands, objects were flung at her, her face was scribbled out of school photographs, she was called filthy names on a daily basis and many threatening text messages were sent to her."
The day that Phoebe committed suicide a group of the Mean Girls drove by and hurled filthy names at her and hit her with a can of Red Bull as they drove away. Shortly after this last attack, Phoebe Prince committed suicide.
The cruelty did not end with Phoebe's suicide either. Some of the girls used Facebook to continue to attack the dead teenager. Community residents became angry when no action was taken and many parents came forward to share their own stories regarding bullying.
Shockingly, the girls have shown no remorse and several parents of the girls say the girls were just being teenagers. An additional outrage was that school officials said they knew nothing of the bullying and practically ignored the entire issue initially.
When a local television crew came out to talk to students, most of the students knew about the bullying towards Phoebe and towards other students. As soon as the TV crew was out of sight, one of the Mean Girls came up and slammed the girl who and been interviewed against a locker and punched her in the head.
Phoebe is not alone; school bullying-related suicide is all too common and may need to be addressed by sources outside the school. It is almost incomprehensible that even one young person should die over something that is entirely preventable: bullying. It won't be easy; many new age bullies are popular, smart, good students and good athletes. To compound the problem, many have parents that support their bullying behaviors.
Teachers and school officials are mandated reporters when they learn that a child is being abused. While bullying does not fall under the legal definition of abuse, in my opinion it is abuse. Bullying relies on secrecy and denial and as long as bullying is not intentionally dealt with, it will continue. Remember, all kids count.
Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org