March 30th, 2010
04:53 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Teen Bullied to Death?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/CRIME/03/30/massachusetts.bullying.suicide/story.phoebe.prince.cnn.jpg
caption="Phoebe Prince, 15, who had recently moved from Ireland, committed suicide in January in Massachusetts." width=300 height=169]

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Nine Massachusetts teenagers, seven girls and two boys, are charged with driving a 15-year-old classmate to kill herself.

Last fall, Phoebe Prince moved from County Clare Ireland to the western Massachusetts town of South Hadley. She had a new home, a new school - a new life. Like any other 15-year-old, she just wanted to fit in. But that didn't happen.

According to reports, she was called an Irish slut. The name-calling never stopped and neither did the harassment, according to Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel.

"Their conduct far exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship-related quarrels. The investigation revealed relentless activity directed toward Phoebe designed to humiliate her and make it impossible for her to remain at school," Scheibel said at a news conference yesterday where she announced the indictments.

The prosecutor says Phoebe spent her last day alive tormented by some classmates at school. She says some of the bullies then taunted and threatened her as she walked home. It ended when Phoebe hanged herself in a closet in the stairway leading to her family's apartment. Her 12-year-old sister found her.

Three of the nine classmates charged in connection with Phoebe's death will be tried as adults. That includes 17-year-old Kayla Narey who faces various charges, including criminal harassment. But the two boy, Sean Mulveyhill, 17, and Austin Renaud, 18, also will be tried in adult court and they are both charged with statutory rape.

Several of the accused students are still at school.

Last night, the school district said it was still waiting for prosecutors to provide more evidence in the case.

"Once we are able to obtain this information we will be able to make a more comprehensive statement and possibly take further action against the students still attending South Hadley High School," the school district's Assistant Superintendent Christine Sweklo said in a statement.

We're keeping them honest. Did school officials do enough to protect Phoebe? Tonight you'll hear from Barbara Coloroso, an expert on school bullying who consulted with the school district last year. Anderson will also talk with Dr. Phil McGraw, psychologist, best-selling author and host of the national syndicated show "Doctor Phil".

Join us for this story and much more starting at 10 p.m. ET. See you then.

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (214 Responses)
  1. Brian

    This is truly a tragedy! It sickens me to see that such behavior was not stopped immediately by the school staff. We as adults have a responsibility to protect our children from harm. I can’t imagine what pain this girl had to endure. My hart goes out to the parents of this child who was trying to escape a living hell.

    These bullies should be held responsible for the consequences of their actions. I remember a time when a smack on the rear was not considered child abuse and we did get paddled at school. Go figure; that was when students did not bring guns to school to shoot each other. Is this a coincidence?

    March 31, 2010 at 7:07 am |
  2. Barbara

    What poor Excuses for Human Beeings they are!
    I hope the full Extent of the Law is coming down on
    them this Time-once and for all! Also the Teachers
    that saw but choose to ignore are held accountable
    in some Way! This simply has to stop!
    RIP dear Phoebe.

    March 31, 2010 at 6:21 am |
  3. Franzella B.

    To all who is in mourning of the death of the young teenager who took her life at a very young age my prays goes out to you all. It hurts me to my heart to have listened to the shocking news. I am a mother of two boy (age 13 & 9) and one girl (age 7) which are going through the same thing of being bullied just bout everyday & yes the teachers have been notified. But I feel like some parents are not the least bit concerned about what their kids are doing in school thats where these kids feel like its ok to do whatever they want or they never really had any training at all.Those bullies need to pay for what they have done to that young girl, this memory needs to haunt them for the rest of their life so long as they are living. As a teenager in school I was one of the kids that got picked on everyday til the point I was asking myself what was my purpose on this earth & suicide had crossed my mind but it was what my grandmother told me that made me gain a strong mind & heart. The words she told me was "Baby your no better than Jesus Christ they talked about him & threw things at him but after everything they did to him look what he did for us". Those words helped me to get where I am now today & those are the same words I speak to my kids to help pull them through what ever they are going through especially my boys cause they sometimes get picked on about their father being deceased & that is just plain out cruel. Again my prays goes out to Phoebe Prince family & friends.

    March 31, 2010 at 6:09 am |
  4. Grace Yam

    It's time for everone in America to take action to stop bullying, but respect individualism and show more respect and understanding to each other. We need to be responsible for what we say and how we act and these kids need to learn that. If we allow this kind of behavior to go on and accept excuses from the parents and school, we can no longer ensure a safe community. This can be one of the main causes for school shootings.
    My daughter was bullied at school – she was called names, her glasses was pulled and thrown onto the ground, she was spit on her face. I talked to the school and what did we ger? I was told that one of the boys had family problems and that his mom is a single mom and insinuated that I should have sympathy.
    I also think that the anti bullying law should be enacted in every state. Why do we have to wait for something to happen before we do anything?

    March 31, 2010 at 6:04 am |
  5. Tricia

    Yes let's keep this topic honest..... Shall we also not forget 11 yo Carl Joseph Walker Hoover of Springfield, Massachussetts who also hung himself due to school bullying despite his mother's weekly pleas to the school for help in April 2009. Will there be justice for this young man in the same manner as with this yong lady in which both resided in the same state? School administration and parents of these bullying cliques should be held accountable for these incidents. It was reported there were 4 suicide deaths related to bullying at schools occurred last year. I guess it takes the death of this one student to perhaps bring forth criminal prosecution for those involved. I further disagree with Dr. Phil regarding his generalized statement that teachers have that passion to teach. Not if there are faculty members witnessing a student's abuse without diffusing or intervening in the probloem.

    March 31, 2010 at 5:59 am |
  6. S. Bush

    Bullying in the schools starts at home. Children who bully others see this abuse in their homes. I am a teacher in public high school and I have discovered that children who bully have parents who bully. They bully in front of their children and bully teachers and principals. We, as teachers, do not have the support of principals. Our school does not have a policy for bullying. It is discouraged; however, there are no serious consequences for such behaviors. Recently I had a parent to bully me about giving a student a passing grade when the child had clearly refussed to complete his assignments. It was an awful experience. And to be honest, I strongly think the principal was bullyed as well and wanted me to give the student an above average grade as well. When I refussed to do so,after offering the student a second chance to complete assignments (that mom completed), I was told by principal that I should have used better judgement.

    March 31, 2010 at 5:50 am |
  7. Angie Williams

    The sadest part of this whole situation is that is could have been prevented, and a young life saved. I have a son, with Asperger's, who at 15 is a gentle giant, 6'3" and about 240 pounds. He has been bullied by a group of students in a particular class, since school started last fall. He notified 3 different teachers on campus about what he was experiencing. The situation escalated the day his teacher was out and a sub was in class. My son ended up punching the bully in the face, and he accepted the consequences for his actions and was suspended from school. When I called & requested a conference call with his resource teacher and the vice-principal, the resource teacher admitted "my bad, I should have followed up" and the vice-principal said he would investigate. Because my son is different, he is an easy target. He was crushed that this happened and told me "Mom, I felt like no one would listen to me, like they thought I was whining or complaining. They said they couldn't do anything unless something happened." Well unfortunately something did, but I was saddened that they couldn't have taken the steps to do something to prevent that. My son is not looking forward to another two years of high school.

    March 31, 2010 at 5:27 am |
  8. Miriam

    Innocence is completely lost and kids nowadays are just out of control. The atrocities they perpetrate are beyond criminal, contemptible and just evil. I think parents should be held accountable maybe then they will do better job of monitoring their kids’ activities especially when they have been notified their kid is bullying others.
    These kids know exactly what they are doing, they believe because of their age they can get away with criminal behavior. I mean they still bully their victims even after they have driven them to death, who are these kids? Devil incarnate does not begin to describe them. I am horrified how inhuman kids are today and how their parents enable them.
    I hope the school officials involved are fired and never allowed to work in the school system.


    March 31, 2010 at 5:25 am |
  9. Regina

    Most of the comments I hear on television are about how the teachers did not act. The truth is that teachers can only do so much. Even when students are suspended for bad behavior it does not mean the behavior stops. It sounds like in this case, teachers could have done more. But in schools all across the country, this goes on, teachers report, bullies are suspended, and still little changes in student behavior. You can't just expel students for bullying. They need to learn not to bully – but teachers can't be the only people responsible for teaching and modeling civility.

    Who's going to talk about the 18 hours a day that students are out of school and the lessons they learn through television, violent video games, and even domestic abuse (emotional and physical) in their own home. How about children who are allowed to spend all their time outside of school with no adult supervision, hanging out with their friends practicing bad behavior.

    Children come to school with the barren conscience that allows them to treat other human beings so harshly. Teachers are now responsible for helping children "unlearn" these behaviors. Who will be made accountable for all those hours that reinforce the negative behaviors?

    March 31, 2010 at 5:22 am |
  10. zeze


    How about creating a hot line where students who are being bullied can call.Evidently reporting to school officials seems to be not working.

    March 31, 2010 at 5:18 am |
  11. Diana

    Those kids should be ashamed! This behavior is pathetic . I hope their punishments teaches them a lesson!!!!!

    March 31, 2010 at 4:14 am |
  12. Danny Darling

    It saddens me to hear that this young girl ( Phoebe) would kill herself because of bullying. Has this country learned anything from the Columbine High School Massacre?; Apparently not. When the Columbine shootings occurred, many news stations, teachers and parents alike said to look out for signs of teenagers acting suspiciously. Well that is all well and good yet it doesn't get to the source of the problem, bullying.

    Bullying was the catalyst for the Columbine shootings and yet it seems no one has done anything but blame other outlets as to why these things happen. It is unfortunate that Phoebe killed herself to get away from her tormenters but I hope that her death is not in vain and that this horrific event is the match that lights the powder keg on this whole issue. How many young children have to die before we get to the source of our problem? I also hope that those who bullied young phoebe are made an example of by the fullest extent of the law. I also believe that these conspirators and coconspirators should never be allowed to get a diploma or G.E.D. since phoebe will never attain either of those things thanks to these teens. I also hope that the faculty members and administrators that didn't do enough to stop this should be fired for their negligence if they don't get a harsher sentence. All of these people involved had the wherewithal to realize the mental anguish it would cause Phoebe and should not be allowed to weasel their way out of their crimes.

    How many more children have to die before we step back and stop using scape goats to give safety to those behind the curtain pulling the strings? Phoebe, may you rest in peace and I hope that you take comfort in knowing that you will no longer be bullied and that your verbal attackers will become the new kids no one wants to be with.

    March 31, 2010 at 3:21 am |
  13. Alex

    I graduated from a private school in Bellflower, CA St. John Bosco. I was a victim of severe BULLYING. I am 48 yrs. old and everyday I still live with this. It has shaped my life and now I consider myself a failure. Where was staff when I needed them? Where were they? You know? They knew all along what was happening but they ignored it. I hid in the restrooms during recess and lunch. I feared my classmates. I was only 4'11 and 75lbs until my Jr. year. I felt my life as a failure then and even unti this day. I have attempted suicide 4 times in my life and the last one was even close that they called the priest for my last rights. Watching this program re-hashed everything again and yes they (school administration) should be held accountable. If not, then who? I hate my life NOW and I don't think that will ever change. Children caught bullying should be punished by some law Congress should pass and the parents should be held accountable as well. It is almost as ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON.

    March 31, 2010 at 3:16 am |
  14. Michelle S.

    My support and prayers go out to this poor girls family. I was bullied all of my school life, I know exactly what she was going through and even considered suicide myself. I fully support that many of the teens are being tried as adults, it should happen more often. I hope they get severe punishments as well as their parents. I can't even fathom why the school wouldn't have done anything to stop the bullying, esspecially if Teachers and Administraters saw what was going on.

    I was bullied all my life at school and it never stopped, even after I told a teacher or told my mom and even after my mother went in and talked to the Principle at my high school. It may have subsided for a few weeks, but inevitably it would start back up again. There once were plans that we knew of that a group were going to attack my sister and myself, and when my mom went to talk to the priciple we were told that there wasn't anythng they could do if they didn't have any proof.

    I believe the schools are afraid of being sued if they step in. Some parents would be willing to claim that their child was depressed after being suspended or expelled. Also I believe that many of the teachers and administraters believe that this is just a fact of life and if they step in the "weaker" person won't learn to stick up for themselves, something else my family was told while I was being bullied. I can tell you all now, it didn't make me any stronger, I don't have anymore character because of it. If anything it caused me to have more problems in my life, esspecially with my self esteem.

    March 31, 2010 at 3:08 am |
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