A controversial student and staff high school trip to Ireland, England and Wales over spring break was planned months before 15-year-old Phoebe Prince took her own life and it will not be called off, South Hadley high school Superintendent Gus Sayer told the Boston Herald on Monday.
Sayer said that the trip, which critics are calling ill-timed, was scheduled for the week of April 17 and was approved by the School Committee in 2009, several months before Prince took her life after intense bullying by her peers.
"Obviously, to make a connection between the fact that they’re going to be in Ireland and the Phoebe Prince incident is not very fair," Sayer told the Herald. "There are quite a few families of Irish background in the district who are probably going on the trip."
None of the six former students charged in connection with Prince’s death will be among the 40 teens and chaperones, Sayer said, however observers wondered if the trip should have gone ahead under the fraught circumstances.
"I know some people, because of publicity about the trip, just wonder what will be awaiting the group when they get there. But we haven’t had any threats or reason to believe they won’t be safe," Sayer said.
Sayer added that he believed the Irish are generally very warm and welcoming and that he blames the media for making the trip seem controversial.
But in Ireland the Irish Independent wrote that the trip is is being seen as another example of lessons not learned by the South Hadley staff in the 14 months since Prince took her own life.