It is not clear what some students at South Hadley High School expected to achieve by subjecting a freshman to the relentless taunting described by a prosecutor and classmates.
Certainly not her suicide. And certainly not the multiple felony indictments announced on Monday against several students at the Massachusetts school.
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.
In the uproar around the suicides of Ms. Prince, 15, and an 11-year-old boy subjected to harassment in nearby Springfield last year, the Massachusetts legislature stepped up work on an anti-bullying law that is now near passage. The law would require school staff members to report suspected incidents and principals to investigate them. It would also demand that schools teach about the dangers of bullying. Forty-one other states have anti-bullying laws of varying strength.
In the Prince case, two boys and four girls, ages 16 to 18, face a different mix of felony charges that include statutory rape, violation of civil rights with bodily injury, harassment, stalking and disturbing a school assembly. Three younger girls have been charged in juvenile court, Elizabeth D. Scheibel, the Northwestern district attorney, said at a news conference in Northampton, Mass.
Appearing with state and local police officials on Monday, Ms. Scheibel said that Ms. Prince’s suicide came after nearly three months of severe taunting and physical threats by a cluster of fellow students.
“The investigation revealed relentless activities directed toward Phoebe to make it impossible for her to stay at school,” Ms. Scheibel said. The conduct of those charged, she said, “far exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship-related quarrels.”
It was particularly alarming, the district attorney said, that some teachers, administrators and other staff members at the school were aware of the harassment but did not stop it. “The actions or inactions of some adults at the school were troublesome,” Ms. Scheibel said, but did not violate any laws.
Christine Swelko, assistant superintendent for South Hadley Public Schools, said school officials planned to meet with the district attorney this week or next. “We will then review this evidence and particularly the new information which the district attorney’s office has but did not come to light within the investigation conducted by the school,” Ms. Swelko said in a statement.
Ms. Prince’s family had recently moved to the United States from a small town in Ireland, and she entered South Hadley last fall. The taunting started when she had a brief relationship with a popular senior boy; some students reportedly called her an “Irish s***,” knocked books out of her hands and sent her threatening text messages, day after day.
South Hadley students at a vigil after their classmate’s death in January
At South Hadley High School, which has about 700 students, most students and teachers refused on Monday to talk about the case. Students waited for parents in the pouring rain and a sports team ran by, with one student telling reporters, “Go away.”
Ashlee Dunn, a 16-year-old sophomore, said she had not known Ms. Prince personally but had heard stories spread about her in the hallways.
“She was new and she was from a different country, and she didn’t really know the school very well,” Ms. Dunn said. “I think that’s probably one reason why they chose Phoebe.”
On Jan. 14, the investigation found, students abused her in the school library, the lunchroom and the hallways and threw a canned drink at her as she walked home. Her sister found her hanging from a stairwell at home, still in her school clothes, at 4:30 p.m.
Some of the students plotted against Ms. Prince on the Internet, using social networking sites, but the main abuse was at school, the prosecutor said.
“The actions of these students were primarily conducted on school grounds during school hours and while school was in session,” Ms. Scheibel said.
Ms. Scheibel declined to provide details about the charges of statutory rape against two boys, but experts said those charges could mean that the boys had sex with Ms. Prince when she was under age.
Legal experts said they were not aware of other cases in which students faced serious criminal charges for harassing a fellow student, but added that the circumstances in this case appeared to be extreme and that juvenile charges were usually kept private.
Shopaholic to find the almost all timeless layout michael kors bag For female, cheap michael kors bags to decide on the right for your case isn't easy in such a travelling bag type replace soon technology. The face of assorted product bags, different styles, really hard to select a not necessarily readily outdated, but in addition traditional and sturdy carrier.low cost michael kors bank account, handbag is an extremely good selection! affordable…See More