When news that five of the six teens charged in connection with Irish girl Phoebe Prince's suicide will be allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge, the anger of South Hadley parents erupted yesterday.
"I think it’s horrible, Dawn Berard, mother of a student at the same South Hadley High School where Prince, 15, was a student told the Boston Herald.
"This case was like the shot heard around the world. It got people thinking about bullying. And because of that, all eyes are on these kids. Authorities need to send the message that if you bully someone to death, you will face the consequences."
The Herald reported that five teens are expected to plead guilty next week to criminal harassment, a charge that could bring sentences ranging from probation to 2 1⁄2 years in jail.
In exchange for their guilty pleas, prosecutors are reportedly expected to drop the more serious charges facing the students, including civil rights violations.
The teens were charged for a relentless bullying campaign they waged against Prince, a frail but strikingly good-looking young Irish immigrant who hanged herself last year. The teens had yelled 'Irish whore' at her in the school library, they had posted demeaning comments about her on Facebook and they had threatened to beat her up.
Barbara Coloroso, an expert on bullying who had lectured at South Hadley High just a few months before Prince’s January 14, 2010 suicide, told the Herald that she believed any sentence should include 'restitution, resolution and reconciliation.'
Coloroso said that means the teens should have to publicly admit what they did and ensure that any derogatory remarks they made about Prince on the Internet are scrubbed - even if they have to pay someone to do it, she said.
Coloroso also suggested the teens should take steps such as speaking about bullying and its consequences in schools, and reach out to the Prince family.