An extensive report published online last week reveals that 15-year-old Irish girl Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide in January in South Hadley, Massachusetts, had emotional problems dating back two years to her schooling days in Ireland.
The article published on Slate.com by journalist and lawyer Emily Bazelon revels, through her review of law enforcement records and extensive interviews with school staff and students, that Phoebe, who lived in Co. Clare with her family before moving to South Hadley in 2009, had attempted suicide in the past.
Bazelon outlined Phoebe’s emotional issues leading up to her suicide and stated that the Irish girl “set in motion” the bullying that occurred before her death.
“Based on extensive interviews and review of the law enforcement records, (my investigation) reveals the uncomfortable fact that Phoebe helped set in motion the conflicts with other students that ended in them turning on her,” Bazelon wrote.
The author described Phoebe’s relationship with two of the students, Sean Mulveyhill and Austin Renaud, both seniors at South Hadley High, as the reason some of the students turned on her. Bazelon alleged in her article that Phoebe was intimate with other students’ boyfriends and this angered them.
Bazelon wrote that Phoebe began cutting herself while at a private boarding school in Ireland in 2008. She was having trouble with some of the students so her parents pulled her out of the school and enrolled her locally at the secondary school where Phoebe’s mother, Ann O’Brien Prince, taught in Co. Clare.
After another run-in with a girl at that school, Phoebe was back cutting herself and taking Prozac by February 2009.
That September Ann (her husband Jeremy stayed behind to tie up loose ends) moved the family to South Hadley, where she has family, to give Phoebe a new start.
Bazelon outlined the relationships Phoebe had with some of the male students and how this caused upset to some of the female students, leading them to call her names in school.
In November 2009 Phoebe renewed her prescription for Prozac and attended the Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts for evaluation.
After Mulveyhill ended their relationship Phoebe told her mother she’d overdosed and she was hospitalized for a week.
Back at school in December, Bazelon wrote that Phoebe got involved with Renaud, who had a long-term girlfriend, Flannery Mullins. This led to some of Mullins’ friends ganging up on Phoebe and in January things got nastier.
Phoebe began cutting herself again and on January 14, the day she took her life, she visited the school nurse with a visible cut on her upper chest. The nurse called in a licensed social worker to speak with Phoebe.
Later that day at school Phoebe was on the receiving end of more verbal abuse from some of the students, and on her way home from school she was flowed by Ashley Longe in her friend’s car. Longe yelled, “whore” out the window and threw an empty drink can at her.
Before she hung herself from her stairwell with a black scarf that her sister had given her, Phoebe texted another male friend saying, “I can’t do it anymore. I’m literally home crying, my scar on my chest is potentially permanent, my bodies (sic) f***ed up what more do you want from me? Do I have to f***ing OD?”
Police found several drawings in Phoebe’s room after her death. One of them depicted a human figure with a noose around the neck. In a note pinned to the body in the drawing, Phoebe asked for forgiveness. Throughout her article Bazelon stated that at certain points the school administrators and counselors were made aware of Phoebe’s emotional issues and suicide attempt.
Darby O’Brien, a friend of the Prince family, told the Irish Voice that Phoebe’s mother had on many occasions went to the school authorities to make them aware of her daughter’s issues, as had Ann’s sister, Eileen Moore.
O’Brien said what’s clear from Bazelon’s article is that the school authorities should be held responsible for their lack of actions.
“It’s clear if you go back to the beginning of January that the school officials were aware of Phoebe’s issues and they consistently denied knowing anything up until the time of her death,” said O’Brien.
“The school talked about putting together a group that would monitor how Phoebe was doing but I don’t think that team ever met once.”
What angers O’Brien more is the lies he and other parents were told from the school authorities.
“I sat in a meting with the chairman of the school committee at the time, Ed Boizelle, and Gus Sayer, and they said to me, ‘If only the Prince family had told us something was wrong we might have been able to do something about it.’
“They knew from the very beginning and did nothing about it,” said O’Brien angrily.
Phoebe’s aunt, Eileen Moore, who spoke to the Boston Herald last week, said Bazelon’s article “resurfaced everything for the family.”
Said Moore, “When an adolescent makes a first suicide attempt, it knocks a family blindside. They need to know there’s somewhere to turn, so that hopefully after that first cry for help, there will never be a second attempt.”