Prosecutors have obtained 53 pages of email correspondence that shed further light on the circumstances leading to Phoebe Prince’s suicide. They also give an insight into how the school became overwhelmed by press interest in the case.
The emails were dated from just days after six students at South Hadley High School were indicted on charges of criminally harassing the County Clare teenager.
Principal Dan Smith consistently refused to answer reporters’ queries, responding only to one Irish reporter but rebuffing attempts by US journalists for information on the case.
The principal also revealed to Police Chief David Labrie that he was feeling overwhelmed by the press interest in the case, going so far as to considering hiring “a detail” to deter journalists from entering the premises to seek information on the case.
In the emails the principal also appears to encourage other teachers at the school to follow his lead in declining journalists’ request. He tells other staff members at the school how he views such interests by journalists as “an invasion of my privacy”.
Another e-mail involves the school’s principal complaining that just after the school had begun “to recover”, from the crisis, “the DA (District Attorney) brought back all the horrific details with additional allegations”.
The principal defends the school’s handling of the case itself, saying that the school did “take action” as soon as it learned of the bullying, but that they “were not able to prevent what happened”.
The school’s principal said that the school responded to all allegations of bullying which were reported to his office, but that he didn’t know the identities of the two teachers who reportedly spoke to Prince’s mother about the harassment.
The Irish student’s death prompted the Massachusetts State Legislature to unanimously approve a law criminalizing the sort of bullying which led to Prince’s death.
The bill was signed into law by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick this May. The new legislation has been praised for including cyber-bullying, such as harassment on social sites such as Facebook and MySpace, within the scope of its definition.