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A tribute to Phoebe Prince, who was due to visit Ireland last week.

Anguish about Irish school bullying suicide hits community

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A tribute to Phoebe Prince, who was due to visit Ireland last week.

Shockwaves from the death of the Irish teenager who killed herself earlier this month are still rippling through South Hadley, the Massachusetts town where she lived, as the community struggles to come to terms with her death and with what caused it. 

“It's tremendously emotionally draining on the family and the whole community right now,” said South Hadley Police Chief David LaBrie in the British Daily Mail. “It's such a sad thing.” Prince was just 15 years old when she committed suicide on Thursday January 14th. Her younger sister, who found her, was 12.

LaBrie is assisting the Northwest District Attorney's office’s investigation into Prince's death. “We are looking at all factors,” he added.

Shocking revelations about the bullying Prince endured have recently emerged. Shortly before she took her life someone sent her a text message saying: “Go kill yourself.”

According to Kevin Cullen writing in Boston.com, the bullies would call Prince a “slut,” or an “Irish slut.” The day she died, they drove past her in a car as she walked from school, shouting at her and throwing an energy drink out the window in her direction.

The bullying occurred within school as well as outside it. A friend has said Prince ran out of a math class because a girl was tormenting her, apparently jealous that a boy she liked had asked Prince to a school dance. “She was calling her names and threatening her,” the friend told the Mail. “Phoebe was probably scared. I know I would be.”

But so far, the bullies have remained unpunished, and they continue to walk the corridors of South Hadley school. Some commentators have criticized the school’s response to the situation. Barbara Coloroso, a best-selling author and consultant on bullying, was invited to speak at the school following the tragedy. “The most important thing is that kids see there are consequences that are swift and relevant, and not merely a warning,” she said, according to the Boston Herald. The school is also concerned the Prince family could sue, the paper reported.

Last week TV crews interviewed students at the school about the bullying. Right afterwards, a bully approached a girl who had spoken up, pushing her against a locker and hitting her on the head.

A high school parent, Darby O’Brien, said people were too shocked to react. “Things like this aren’t supposed to happen in South Hadley,’’ he told Boston.com. “And so instead of confronting the evil among us, the reality that there are bullies roaming the corridors at South Hadley High, people are blaming the victim, looking for excuses why a 15-year-old girl would do this. People are in denial.’’

O’Brien said he was concerned the bullies still held sway at the school. “How many kids haven’t come forward to tell what they know because they see the bullies walking around untouched?’’ he asked. “What kind of message does this send to the good kids?’’

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