The Massachusetts High School attended by tragic Irish suicide student Phoebe Prince is at the center of controversy again – for organizing a trip to her home county Clare.
The student newspaper has announced details of a school tour to the UK and Ireland for pupils at South Hadley High in April.
Phoebe was just 15 years of age when she committed suicide 14 months ago amid allegations that she was bullied and raped by fellow school goers.
Six students at the High School currently face charges ranging from statutory rape to bullying, all connected to the shocking death of the Irish teenager.
According to the Sunday Independent, relatives of Phoebe are shocked at yet another callous decision by the school authorities who allowed a cotillion to go ahead just days after her death.
Sean Mulveyhill, one of those charged with statutory rape and civil rights violations of Phoebe, later appeared in Facebook photos dancing with girls at the event.
School officials claimed then that their perceived lack of sensitivity was ‘exaggerated’ according to the Sunday Independent.
But now South Hadley High plan to go ahead with the trip to Ireland despite the fact that six of their students are due before the courts.
The proposed itinerary includes a flight into Shannon, less than an hour from Phoebe’s family home, and a visit to Oxford where her father Jeremy studied.
“What kind of welcome do they imagine they are going to get in Ireland?” one parent at the school asked the Sunday Independent.
“There is a federal investigation going on into the conduct of the officials at the school, the kids are before the criminal courts, and they are now using school funds to travel thousands of miles to where the parents of this girl live.
“Are they trying to provoke them or something? You have to wonder what kind of leadership is there and what has really changed.”
Phoebe’s death attracted huge interest across the world and a major debate on bullying in the school across the US.
Under a new Massachusetts law, entitled Phoebe’s Law by many, school employees are now required to report all instances of bullying and principals are mandated to investigate them.
“It was designed to demonstrate to the nation that bullying will no longer be tolerated” said State Representative John Scibak, whose district includes South Hadley, the neighborhood where Phoebe lived with her mother Anne and sister Lauren from 2009.
The principal at Phoebe’s school has since retired but has denied his decision had anything to do with the tragedy.
Current superintendent Gus Sayer insisted: “No staff member acted inappropriately,” but he is one of several officials whose conduct is being examined as part of a federal investigation.
The District Attorney handling the bullying case against those who tormented Phoebe has since stood down.
His replacement David Sullivan told a local TV news station last month: “Certainly her being an Irish citizen has given great focus to Ireland... going forward I think schools are going to take positive steps not to have bullying.”