Fear and loathing in South Hadley over Phoebe Prince suicide
It hurt to the core as I saw in my mind the beautiful Irish teenager walk through the front door and up the stairs to her death.
After a short prayer for her and her family I continued into the main strip in South Hadley. An impressive little village adorned with stores, restaurants and offices.
I had lunch with a mother and daughter teams who have been very vocal on the responsibility the school should be taking in Phoebe’s bullying and were eager to share their opinions with the Irish Voice.
Erica Laughlin, 39, and her mother, Susan Clow, are beyond angry at the way school authorities have handled themselves in dealing with Phoebe’s death.
Laughlin, a parent of four children, lives in South Hadley. However, her children attend school in the next town over.
There is a chance that next year her kids will be expected to attend South Hadley High School.
“This will not happen,” said Laughlin.
“If it comes to that I’m ready to home school my kids,” she said.
“There is no way I’m going to send them to South Hadley High.”
Clow said South Hadley has a “culture of bullying.
“It’s always been like this and people have turned a blind eye. If you don’t fit in or wear a certain type of clothes then you are looked down on and bullied,” said Clow.
Laughlin has attended all the school committee meetings to show solidarity for the few people in the town that are standing up to the South Hadley school authorities.
“I’ve been at meetings where several people stood up and spoke about the bullying of their own child,” said Laughlin.
“But nothing has been done- Gus Sayer (schools superintendent) had neglected to do anything. It’s a disgrace.”
Clow said she would like to see the “school stand up” and taking responsibility.
“It would be nice to see adults in the school, morally coming forward and standing beside the kids who are being charged.”
Both mother and daughter agree that although it’s imperative the six students charged in relation to Phoebe’s bullying should be punished they feel the South Hadley school authorities are hanging them out to dry.
“Their life is being ruined and the school is doing nothing to take responsibility,” she said.
Darby O’Brien, 61, is also asking South Hadley High School administrators to own up to their role in Phoebe’s bullying.
O’Brien, founder and president of Darby O'Brien Advertising and Public Relations in South Hadley, has been very vocal with his opinions at school committee meetings. His outrage and opinions have caused threats to his life.
"I was walking the dog along a major road when this car came right off the road and up on the curb towards me," he said, adding that he managed to get out of the way on time.
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