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The family of Phoebe Prince, photographed outside Ireland's Government building, Darby O'Brien couldn’t stand to see County Clare student’s bullies continue their lives as community ignored it. Photo by: Photos

The local South Hadley hero who exposed Phoebe Prince bullies

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The family of Phoebe Prince, photographed outside Ireland's Government building, Darby O'Brien couldn’t stand to see County Clare student’s bullies continue their lives as community ignored it. Photo by: Photos

In the immediate aftermath of Phoebe Prince's death from bullying little changed at South Hadley High.

Just two days after, the annual cotillion dance went ahead with lavish amounts of money spent on dresses, chauffeur driven cars and expensive gifts for girlfriends.

Some of the bullies who had driven Phoebe to suicide attended the cotillion without any reprimand.

Those same kids who had caused Phoebe's death continued to walk the corridors in the schools and the principal and the school superintendent seemed ready to brush the whole affair under the carpet.

Then Darby O'Brien stepped in.

O'Brien, who runs an advertising agency in South Hadley, was disgusted at the evident cover up and the "blame Phoebe" sentiment he was hearing everywhere, surrounding her death.

He placed a call to Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen, who knew O'Brien from his time working in South Hadley as a young reporter many years ago.

"O'Brien asked me to come and write what he hoped would be a wake-up call, a story about a town in denial, a town where it was common knowledge who bullied Phoebe Prince and yet those bullies were walking around school as if nothing happened," said Cullen.

Worse, some people were blaming Phoebe for her own demise saying she brought it on herself said O'Brien.

"It's sick" he told Cullen in terms of the cover up that was underway saying the local media was far too deferential to the school authorities.

Cullen, now a columnist at the Globe, began investigating and his subsequent stories about the bullies and the failure of school authorities to act blew the case wide open.

Cullen's column sparked fury in South Hadley, not all against the bullies however. O'Brien received furious calls about his decision to go public.

But now parents who had suspected bad bullying in the Phoebe case began taking matters into their own hands - but first met with a stonewall from the school authorities.

South Hadley born district attorney, Bestsy Scheibel, also took note. It was her determination to take a case that eventually blew wide open the story on bullies and their role on Phoebe's death.

But without Darby O'Brien it would likely never have happened.

Originally published 2010.

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