Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick has come out strongly against school bullying in the wake of the suicide of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old Irish-born girl living in South Hadley who was mercilessly bullied. The governor spoke to a nine-year-old boy at an elementary school who was being bullied and addressed the schools' pupils on the issue.
Meanwhile friends of the Prince family have announced an Irish fundraiser to help the family, who have moved out of their home to cope with their loss.
Patricia Smith, of South Hadley, said she is organizing the event to help Prince's family, who are now living with friends in the area. The family moved out of the home where Phoebe committed suicide by hanging herself after school bullies made her life hell soon after Prince's demise, Smith said.
Smith stated she had a granddaughter who was bullied in the South Hadley public school system.
"It has been going on for years in South Hadley," Smith said.
A local representative John Schibak said he expects legislation including penalties for cyber bullying to be in place next month.
He told the Boston Herald the governor's intervention was very helpful. “I think when you have a young child who has the confidence to speak up, that’s half the battle,” Scibak said. “All adults need is to make these kids feel safe and encourage them to speak out.”
“I applaud the governor for what he did. I think the message is, ‘We are watching and we will not tolerate it,’ ” said Scibak.
“The perpetrators who may think this is funny or it’s no big deal need to know there are consequences, because without them they’ll just continue to do it,” Scibak said.
Barbara Coloroso, an expert hired by South Hadley authorities also approved.
“Bringing in someone as powerful as the governor has a big impact, because he’s an influential human being who’s saying, ‘We’re taking this seriously,’” Coloroso said. “But if you say something and there’s no follow-up, it’s more damaging.”
Students need to see that bullies will be punished consistently and that whoever reports the bully will be safe, said Coloroso.