It has been revealed today that South Hadley public schools settled a discrimination case brought by Phoebe Prince’s parents following her suicide in January this year. Also federal prosecutors have been investigating possible wrongdoing by school officials in handling Phoebe’s bullying and the aftermath of her suicide.
As six of South Hadley’s High School students are facing charges for the persecution of the 15-year-old, County Clare student, Phoebe Prince is seems that the school might also be forced to admit their own failure in preventing and mishandling of Phoebe’s suicide.
The South Hadley school superintendent, Gus Sayer, has, until now, maintained that no one in the school department did anything wrong. It seems that the federal investigators could now find that some blame does lie with the school.
In November South Hadley public schools settled a discrimination case brought by Jeremy Prince and Anne O’Brien, Phoebe’s parents. According to Boston.com, they filed that complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in July, naming the school system, Sayer, South Hadley High’s principal, Dan Smith and assistant principal William Evans.
The complaint accused the school and the named officials of failing to protect Phoebe from discrimination, which mounted to sexual harassment.
On November 7 the complaint was dismissed. The Prince’s lawyer, Robert Leonard said he had “reached a satisfactory settlement”. Leonard has declined to discuss the details of the settlement. A friend of the family said they are not interested in the monetary fund but that the school bear some responsibility for Phoebe’s suicide.
Now federal prosecutors have been looking into any wrongdoings by school officials either before or in the aftermath of Phoebe’s tragic suicide. Boston.com reported that one of the allegations is that a school official destroyed handwritten notes about Phoebe after her suicide.
Mr Leonard would not comment on the investigation but confirmed that it was still ongoing.
It could be that just like the Northwestern District Attorney Betsy Scheibel concluded – although the school officials didn’t help they also did not commit a crime.
However, Gus Sayer’s statements that the teachers and staff at the school did not realize the extent of the bullying until it was too late have never held up to anecdotal evidence. He declined to comment on the federal investigation.
It seems strange that the six teenagers who were found to be her persecutors are being charged as adults and in the New Year their trials will likely begin, and they could face jail time, while the South Hadley schools administration, the adults, might simply walk away.