South Hadley High School has set up a special committee to combat bullying, following the death of 15-year-old Irish girl Phoebe Prince.
The school had been reviewing the problem for 18 months. Now Prince’s suicide makes the issue even more urgent.
“It will be a discussion of the policy and what programs we have to make kids safe,’’ Edward Boiselle, the school committee chairman, told Boston.com. “At the same time, the family has a right to their privacy.’’
At the family’s request, the committee will not discuss Prince’s death.
The Irish teenager took her life on Thursday January 14. At 4.40pm one of her sisters called for medical assistance, and police, fire and an ambulance responded, according to Boston.com. A South Hadley police spokesman said, “It was a hanging, I believe.”
The bullying that afflicted Prince occurred in real life, but its main form was through cellphone text messages, and over the internet, especially on Facebook.
“The real problem now is the texting stuff and the cyber-bullying,’’ South Hadley School Superintendent Gus A. Sayer told Boston.com. “Some kids can be very mean towards one another using that medium.’’
“Apparently the young woman had been subjected to taunting from her classmates, mostly through the Facebook and text messages, but also in person on at least a couple of occasions,” he added.
The problems seem to have centered on dating and relationship issues. In a letter to parents, school principal Daniel Smith wrote. “School personnel immediately intervened ... and both counseled and provided consequences as the situations required. It is what happened after those incidents were over that is cause for significant concern.’’
When Prince’s loved ones set up a facebook page in her memory it too was vandalized by bullies and has since been taken down. The obituary in a local paper, The Republican, says Prince “touched many lives with her Irish mannerisms and sense of humor.”
“What her family and friends from both sides of the Atlantic grieve in is the loss of the incandescent enthusiasm of a life blossoming. At age 14 the family moved to South Hadley, MA so that Phoebe could experience America and be near family.”