Superintendent of South Hadley High school, Gus Sayer, defended the way the school handled the bullying of Irish girl, Phoebe Prince, who took her own life in January.
Sayer spoke extensively on Wednesday after criminal charges of bullying related to 15-year-old Phoebe Prince were brought against nine South Hadley teenagers.
On Monday, the Northwestern District Attorney's office released a statement claiming that school authorities did not do enough to put a stop to the bullying, reported to them on several occasions.
District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel said her investigation concluded that students of South Hadley were aware of the harassment for three months and some staff members and administrators were made aware of the issue but never reported it to the right authorities.
She described their lack of responsibility "troublesome."
Sayer defends the school, saying officials only became aware of the issue a week before Phoebe hanged herself in her South Hadley home.
“That’s the first we learned of it, and we took very strong action,’’ he told the Boston Globe.
Sayer said the week before Phoebe died, one staff member overheard threats being made on Phoebe. Another incident was when a fellow student heard someone call Phoebe an "Irish slut."
Sayer said both incidents were reported to the principal.
He didn't, however, say if the students in question were suspended or if they were at school on January 14, the day Phoebe took her own life.
All he said was the students were “appropriately punished.’’
“That’s the only thing that was reported to faculty,’’ he said.
“I think the principal did everything he could.’’
“We don’t have knowledge of any bullying or other incidents before that. No one turned their back on this. I think we did everything we could. If I thought I had done something wrong, I would resign. But I think we did our best.’’
Sayer said the school conducted their own internal investigation after Phoebe's death and school principal, Dan Smith, did not draw the same findings as the District Attorney's office.
“He (Smith) followed up every lead, but we didn’t get any other reports,’’ said Sayer.
Scheibel was annoyed with Sayer's defense.
“He is under fire and lashing out,’’ she said.
“He does not have access to investigative material, so I don’t know how or why he can say what he said to the Globe. He doesn’t know what evidence we have.’’
Scheibel said on Monday that Phoebe's own mother reported the bullying to the school on two separate occasions.
Sayer denied Phoebe's mother reporting the actual issue of bullying.
He said her mother met with the school nurse and guidance counselor but bullying was never discussed. And the conversations were never reported to Smith.
Sayer said if staff at the school realized the extent of what was going on they would have intervened immediately.
“It’s highly unlikely that people wouldn’t have taken action to help her,’’ he said.
“If this were something that were widely known, or even known by just a few people, people would have stepped in. We would not let people get harmed.’’
Sayer said a lot of the bullying took place away from adults.
"The kids have a way of communicating with each other without us knowing about it,’’ he said.
“They really have their own world,’’ he said.
Three of the nine teenagers — Sean Mulveyhill, Kayla Narey, and Austin Renaud — whom Scheibel charged in connection with Prince’s death are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday