There aren't many libraries where you can fail to notice someone shouting at the top of their lungs, but a South Hadley High School staffer insists that was the case on the fateful day that distressed Irish teen Phoebe Prince hanged herself.
Libraries are usually places of enforced silence, so the High School staffer's surprising claim not to have heard bullies screaming ugly abuse at Prince now stands at odds with prosecutors (and student's) versions of events.
E-mails made available recently show that principal Dan Smith has attempted to distance the faculty member from a shocking event that may have been the tipping point that led to the Irish teen's suicide on January 14.
The episode in the library was one of three vicious and unprovoked attacks Prince, a frail 15 year old, was subjected to. She received no help from the School's staff on each occasion.
'While the staff member was in the library proper, the staff member did not observe the bullying,' Smith wrote on March 31 in response to an inquiry from an Irish reporter. 'There is a very big difference between those points.'
The correspondence is among 53 e-mails from Smith, Superintendent Gus A. Sayer and others turned over to the press under a public records request. In the same e-mail, Smith wrote, 'our library is quite large, including a full computer lab, book stacks, another small computer lab, etc.'
Smith's statement dramatically contradicts court papers filed just eight days later, on April 8, where prosecutors state that accused bully Ashley Longe, 16, was 'screaming at (Prince) from across the library,' calling her an 'Irish whore.'
'Multiple witnesses informed investigators that the defendant referred to Ms. Prince using such words as ‘stupid slut’ and ‘Irish whore’ while Prince attempted to study in the school’s library,' prosecutors wrote. 'The defendant’s comments to Ms. Prince were loud enough that they were overheard by other students in the library.'
Prosecutors also state Longe and her co-defendants Sean Mulveyhill, 17, and Kayla Narey, 17, penned slurs about Prince on the library sign-in sheet. All six students accused of bullying Prince have pleaded not guilty.
Smith did not return phone calls or e-mails from the press this week. Sayer, however, has told the press that the faculty member in the library did not witness the bullying. Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel has said the library incident was not reported to school administrators until after Prince died.