South Hadley, Massachusetts, will never be the same again after nine teens were indicted for pushing a 15 year old girl, Pheobe Prince, into suicide with acts of stalking, bullying and cyber bullying.
A fresh arrival from Ireland, Pheobe Prince was a bright, happy and always smiling girl who was willing to be friends with everyone and still tried to find ways to cope with the American way of living.
But arriving at South Hadley High School, Pheobe Prince realized that life may not be that easy and happy for her after all, targeted by what the media dubbed “Mean Girls”, she was intolerably ridiculed, mocked and bullied by the group of girls both in person and via social networks such as Twitter, Craigslist, Facebook and Formspring. She was called “Irish Slut” and “Whore” several times, her books were knocked out of her hands, food and other items were thrown at her and she received threatening and degrading text messages and IMs on her phone.
One winter day, Pheobe Prince was harassed at the school library and in the hallway and a soda can was thrown on her and the last words she heard at school were “why don’t you go kill yourself?” , that afternoon, Pheobe walked to her house and hung herself in the stairwell.
Before the police started their investigation, the cruel taunting did not stop, her tormentors posted very vicious comments on her Facebook memorial page, a page created by her friends and loved ones in prayer and grief.
While the authorities took their time to find the truth behind Pheobe’s bullying, they found little or no cooperation from internet and phone service providers as well as social network administrators.
Seven of the nine teens indicted were girls charged with a range of crimes, from criminal harassment to stalking to civil rights violations. A juvenile girl was charged with assault by means of a dangerous weapon – the soda can.
The two males, 17 and 18, were charged with statutory rape.
Unveiling the indictments, the authorities learned that numerous faculty members, staff members and administrators at South Hadley High School were aware of the bullying – some even witnessed physical abuse – and did nothing.
“The real problem now is the texting stuff and the CyberBullying,” South Hadley School Superintendent Gus A. Sayer said.”Some kids can be very mean towards one another using that medium.”