The Massachusetts State Senate unanimously approved an anti-bullying bill on Thursday, March 11 just two months after a Co. Clare teenager in Massachusetts committed suicide.
The State Senate unanimously backed a bill that plans to clamp down on a range of bullying tactics including cyber abuse of which Phoebe Prince, 15, was a victim. The bill was passed on a vote of 38-0.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives where it is expected to pass without issue.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has promised to sign the bill into law as soon as it comes out of the House of Representatives.
“The time for action against bullying is now,” Patrick said in a statement after the bill was approved recently by the Education Committee.
State Senator Stanley Rosenberg said it's time to start saving young lives.
"The situation in South Hadley was horrendous, our hearts go out to that family, to that whole school system, we have to act," said Rosenberg.
The bill aims to put a ban on bullying at schools in various forms including the use of text messages and online websites for verbally abusive purposes. An anti-bullying curriculum will be enforced in Massachusetts’s schools, which will require school principals to report bullies to authorities if it’s believed that criminal charges should be followed.
State Senator Stephen Buoniconti said school principals would be scrutinized.
"This is going to be a performance issue for all principals, they're going to have to stay on top of this, so the school committees will have a chance to review it, and if there's a reason there's a fall down by a certain community, that's going to put them in hot water with the department of education."
Phoebe, from Fanore, Co. Clare, was a freshman at South Hadley High School in South Hadley.
Last summer Phoebe relocated to South Hadley with her mother, Anne O’Brien-Prince and sisters Lauren, Tessa and Bridget and brother Simon, so she could, according to her family, “experience America and be near her family in Massachusetts.”
Prince was attending South Hadley High School since September.
The young Irish girl found it difficult to settle into school. She engaged in school counseling sessions to adjust to her new settings.
The bullying apparently started when she began dating a senior football player. Other students didn’t like this and began posting snarl comments on her personal Facebook page.
According to reports they also sent her vile text messages and verbally abused her in school and when the opportunity arose outside of the classroom.
After her death the nasty Facebook messages continued on her homepage.
A few weeks ago a number of students were expelled from South Hadley High School after an investigation by school authorities concluded that they were responsible for dishing out the bullying.
Parents of students in the school have come down heavy on school authorities requesting immediate measures to be taken in instances where their children are being bullied.