A bullying expert has spoken to teenagers and parents at South Hadley high school in Massachussetts following the suicide of Irish student Phoebe Prince, and has found them angry with the school’s response.
“The kids were frustrated,’’ Barbara Coloroso told the Boston Globe. Coloroso also advised Columbine High School after two boys who were bullied shot 13 other people. “They wanted to know what could have been done to prevent Phoebe’s death. It appeared to them that nothing was being done.’’
Locals in South Hadley are upset because the school has not yet moved against the bullies. In a comment on Irishcentral's website one parent wrote that at a school committee meeting last night "parents came forward and spoke of the brutal teasing that their own children have been subjected to. This has been an issue for many years and the school committee has done nothing about it."
The school has responded that in punishing the bullies it must stick to what law enforcers advise. But Coloroso, who also visited the school in September 2009, said South Hadley High has not implemented the measures she suggested then, according to the Globe.
“They said they had a warning and suspension policy in place,” she said. “But it was nebulous. And the policy didn’t include cyberbullying.’’
She added, “There’s got to be a procedure in place to determine how they handle the bully, how they protect the target, and what they are going to do with any bystander who may have contributed to this mess and protect them if they are a witness. They don’t have that yet.’’
Many of the torments aimed at Prince were online, the bullies even vandalizing the facebook page set up in her memory. “What the community, and even more so the students, needs is a strong antibullying policy that explicitly explains what it is. And it has to include cyberbullying and all forms of hazing,’’ Coloroso told the Globe.
Bullies began to target Prince after she dated a senior who was also a football player. The taunts included calling her a slut.
“I don’t want to hear that Phoebe had problems, that she and other girls were in a conflict over a boy,’’ Coloroso said. “Calling someone an Irish slut is not a conflict. It’s bullying. You resolve conflict. You stop bullying.’’
But parents, teachers and administrators have all been slow to acknowledge the full extent of the school’s bullying problem. When Coloroso gave the anti-bullying session for parents in September, about 10 people attended.
At her lecture last week, 300 parents turned up and Coloroso addressed students in two separate sessions because they didn’t fit into the auditorium.