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Phoebe Prince

The lesson Phoebe Prince taught us: Words can kill

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Phoebe Prince

No one can ever prove — although the Northeastern District Attorney’s office sure will try — that young Irish girl Phoebe Prince hanged herself because of the effect nasty words had on her.

After weeks and weeks of listening to school peers and ex boyfriends hurl verbal insults and post malicious comments on her Facebook page, 15-year-old Phoebe broke.

She could no longer deal with the psychological anguish that accompanied the bad stuff.

Death seemed like the only way out.

I've read and reported on Phoebe's last few hours on this earth; an early morning giggle with her real friends in her new South Hadley school turned into a dark afternoon in the school library listening to a tirade of verbal abuse from peers who hated her because she once dated the popular guys.

These words – words she was hearing on a daily basis — were taking their toll on her.

Her heart must have sunk deeper and deeper into despair as the bullies' harsh choice of vocabulary — “Irish slut” is just one example — came crashing down on her.

No doubt a feeling of hopelessness and unworthiness crept through her mind, and finally the decision to end the internal pain and suffering was made.

When exactly Phoebe decided she had enough we will never know.

None of her friends ever remember her saying she was going to kill herself, but the day she died, she shared a few questionable comments with her friends.

It was only after her death that her sentiments made sense.

I've no doubt everyone who has survived puberty can say they've experienced some sort of bullying during their teenage life, some no doubt worse than others.

We were at our most-fragile. One is lucky to escape unscarred. Fitting in was essential for acceptance.

Usually, it was necessary to be part of "the popular gang" to feel any sort of contentment — the girls and guys who were good-looking, athletic and more often than not came from money.

If you weren't part of this clique — and most weren’t — you suffered in one way or another.

It’s a possibility you internally tore yourself up because you felt inadequate, or those around you made you aware of your "non-existence."

You may have spent countless nights crying yourself to sleep and many mornings begging your parents not to send you to school because you couldn't face another day of torment.

You may have even contemplated – albeit not very seriously — ending life as you knew it.

Those were the bad times.

But it was sometimes good.

Remember that first boyfriend. It didn't matter if he was as unpopular as you were; no one could take away that feeling of belonging and accomplishment as you held his hand during recess.

You proved to the "popular kids" you too could be like them — loved and needed.

Phoebe Prince had these emotions, too.

She was an instant hit with the South Hadley boys when she got to the school last September.

She began dating one of the school's football stars and no doubt felt she had carved a place for herself among the popular kids.

She had her brief moment in the spotlight until it turned nasty.

Then came the crying herself to sleep and the beating herself up internally.

And then came the end.

In recent weeks, reports surfaced that Phoebe and her family reported the bullying to school officials — they are denying any such knowledge.

The students responsible for the bullying have all been charged.

Her parents and siblings are trying to piece their lives back together.

A lot of lives have been torn apart by Phoebe’s death, some more than others. And several severe consequences will be doled out as time goes on. But one thing is for sure: Phoebe's death was a direct result of the impact hurtful and demeaning words can have on someone.

It’s time we taught our children the power and effect words can have, or there will countless more Phoebe-like suicides.

There is a lesson to be learned. Let's get teaching!

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