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. Rob

    There's a cult movie – Twelve O'clock High. Bulling in high school is the theme. Very sad but nothing new. Its going on now and has been going on since public schools. The school faculties generally ignore it because they decide in their minds – its not real, or the bulling kid is really harmless, or the bullied kid needs to be a little tougher, or it not their job to address. But unfortunately the bullied kid lives in almost constant fear. Usually the way out is for the kid being bullied to finally face the bully, straight up, head to head in an altercation. The bullied kid usually gets punished in this situation but the bully then finds another victim after this.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  2. theresa

    Teachers don't care. If you try to tell them about being bullied they either send you to another teacher or sometimes if you're defending yourself you get in trouble and you have to apologize to the bully. Sometimes your teacher can be a bully,also. I'm 13 and when I'm harassed at school,I get into trouble but the other students don't. My teachers could care less about their students.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  3. Alex

    Bulling has always been and will most likely always be an issue.
    I myself experienced it when I was younger.

    The major issue, which no one addresses, is lack of counseling. Almost all public schools (that I know of) should have some sort of counseling center yet bulling victims seldom seek help. Thats when things can unfortunately turn tragic.

    I believe fully that stricter bulling laws will not necessarily stop bulling.
    we need active counseling to stop tragedy from happening.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  4. Anne

    Five years ago, my grandson was the new kid in school. He was bullied by kids whose parents were leaders in the community. The principal ignored my daughter who objected to his lack of a person on the playground before school. Three bullies ganged up on my grandson but he gave one of them a bloody nose. The principal decided that it was my grandson's fault, filed charges against him and called a meeting with the superintendent. My daughter should have had an attorney and she didn't know what to do. Together, the principal and the superintendent–over one bloody nose–expelled my grandson for an entire school year and he is still marked with that stigma. He had such potential five years ago. That is gone, now. The principal, however, was fired shortly after this, and the superintendent resigned. The bullies are still bullying in high school and my grandson has found his only friends in the group of kids who are constantly getting into trouble.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  5. deb

    The South Hadley story is so tragic. Having been bullied years ago, I can say that it is very destructive to a student's psyche; I can only imagine what it's like today with the technology we have – the speed and distance the harassment can travel and the sheer numbers of people it reaches! Of course other students know what's going on, and - although I'm not a gambling person - I would be willing to bet that any number of teachers know too. No one wants to ruffle feathers or stand out or, in some cases, make extra "work" for themselves.

    The students in the South Hadley case need to be not only punished, but educated about the consequences of their actions. The parents, teachers and administrators who failed to act need to be educated and held responsible as well. Of course, it goes without saying that this should be the case in every other tragic bullying episode across Massachusetts and across the country. Bullying is perhaps the only thing that occurs in a vacuum and adults across the country need to breathe respect, kindness, compassion and responsibility into this vacuum and save these kids.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  6. Shane O'Neill

    Thanks for covering this story Anderson. The story is being covered here in Ireland, and everyone is totally shocked and disgusted at the tragic passing of this young girl.
    Bullying is a widespread issue and not enough is talked about it. Maybe this will be the catalyst for the floodgates to open so that bullying can be talked about with solid information as to how to prevent it when it takes hold.
    What a tragic tragic thing to happen.
    Shane O'Neill

    March 30, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  7. Batavia, Ohio

    If this is a case of physical violence against the girl, then real charges need to be filed and the 'bully'ers' need to be tried as an adult and be tried for manslaughter.

    If this is a case of Facebook, MySpace or texting bullying, then all the girl and her parents had to do was hit the magic 'OFF' button on the computer or cell phone! I dont know if her parents even paid any attention to what was going on, if not, then shame on them!

    Cyber-bullying is something that Parents can stop!

    Fordman in Ohio

    March 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  8. Laura

    As a child who was bullied from age 7-13 from one particular mean boy (and his buddies who 'went along' and several other students just to 'fit in') I believe others are simply "afraid" to speak up, fearing that then the "bully" will then get even and begin targetting them. Teachers and even the principal of this small school were aware but made little consistent attempt to end the situation. This was back in the 70's.
    Bullying is so widespread– even as adults in the workplace, people are afraid to stand up and stick up for those being bullied– but at least as adults they can be charged with "criminal harrassment" and perhaps seek recourse in employee protection laws– children are not yet held accountable and told their behaviour is unacceptable. "Hitting others" is usually obviously stopped in small children– teaching kindness and compassion is sadly lagging far behind.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  9. Vig

    The school administrators should have adjacent jail cells with the gang of 9. Sorry, Dr. Phil, but to pass this off as "kids whose brains are still developing" is ridiculous. These are psychopathic teens – and our culture is producing more of these mentally disturbed individuals at younger ages. I hope the new health reform law covers mental health services because torturing someone to death is a mental illness – not a brain in development. and beyond bullying.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  10. D..J.

    This topic needs to get more attention. Thanks, Anderson and Dr. Phill for this program. Please keep attention on this. How many young people have to die because of this bullying.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  11. theresa

    Teachers don't care. If you try to tell them about being bullied they either send you to another teacher or sometimes if you're defending yourself you get apim trouble and you have to apologize to the bully. Sometimes your teacher can be a bully,also. I'm 13 and when I'm harassed at school,I get into trouble but the other students don't. My teachers could care less about their students.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  12. Trev

    I am surprised that the parents have been held accountable for the actions of these children.
    Where were the parents?

    March 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  13. Shirley Fuller

    I am furious that so many of our youth and teenagers are committing suicide because of bullying in our schools. This has happened to my grandchildren here in Jasper County. My granddaughter, a smart, beautiful young woman dropped out of school because of bullying. My daughter went to the school officials anof course promises would be made, but never carried out as to punishment, etc. We have had teenage suicides here and it probably stemmed from bullying . I am so glad to see that finally through the national media that maybe soon laws will be passed against this type of crime. Good work CNN!

    March 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  14. Roxie

    the parents of those students were probablilly bullies when they were students. I was in the schools in the 60's and was bullied. I would have "taken my kid to the woodshed" if I had heard about them bullying another student. We need parents who know what their children are doing.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  15. Juliet

    "Bullying is part of childhood," they say. The difference between bullying now and bullying then is that it has become more lethal. In decades past, bullying was still emotionally destructive, but the physical elements were of the sticks and stones variety. Today children are resorting to suicide and homicide to deal with the emotional pain of bullying. We must be serious in our efforts to stop more children from dying.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  16. S Wilson

    I drive a school bus in a major city. Bullying is an epidemic in the school system. I have written up students for bullying and have seen nothing to help the victims. The schools appear to me more interested in having a high attendance, perhaps because they receive more funds when they have more students.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  17. Jj

    Ok I get that bullying is bad. But here's the thing: I was bullied. I was called fat. My books were knocked out of my hands. I repeatedly got pushed, punched, and hit. I got food thrown at me. I was denied a seat on the bus. I didn't have friends and my home life was not good either. And I survived. I pushed back. I refused to quit. What is different about kids today that they can't take it? How have changed as a society?

    March 30, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  18. Omar Haleem

    Thanks Anderson, this issue is close to every parents heart..it's unbelievable that this sort of thing can happen here. How can anyone trust their children in American schools if there is no law against such acts?. Definately this has to stopo before they start publishing annual statistics, every life counts..tthose who bully in school later in life can turn to much more violent crimes.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  19. Claire

    I am all for justice for Pheobe but have concerns over how many lives will be destroyed in the process. People in South Hadley want anyone and everyone hanging from the nearest tree. The schools are streched too thin and have now become social service workers and the education goes to the side.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  20. Z. Sharif

    Yes these are sad stories that kids get bullied in schools and else where. parents should be held responsible and also the faculty members at the school for ignoring the matter. I read somewhere how emotional abuse is really as committing crime because this takes a toll on the individuals who are getting bullied. I believe that the discipline starts at home and parents need to talk to their kids because no one or no parents deserves to lose their child at young age. I am glad your discusses this on the CNN but I think they need to have classes at school to teach at early age about this matter,

    March 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  21. coloneldax2005

    Who's gonna step up and stop this?
    If enough people step up, the bullying will decrease dramatically.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  22. Donna McGregor

    I am the parent of a child who was bullied, not only by students but teachers as well. I had teachers offer to stand behind me initially then a teacher contacted me at home and told me if she took my daughter's side, she would lose her job. This is a sad statement on our society. My daughter went on to be accosted by four boys in front of the school crossing guard and she swore she didn't see it. My child was suicidal. Thank God we got through it, I feel for the parents whose children did not. I spent endless hours at the school to no avail. Something has got to be done!

    March 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  23. Angela

    I was bullied by students AND teachers. I am now 44yrs old and have deep scars that remain today from the things that were said and done to me. What has happened to our schools, most importantly what has happened to our society? Why is nothing being done?wake up parents,teachers and neighbors! Stop this now! What if your child were the victim?

    March 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  24. Kelly Benjamin

    I'm an 18 year old African-American male, still in high school. In all honesty, I think its really stupid to take your life just because you were being bullied. Now, I'm not saying she's a stupid person, but I've seen a lot of people get bullied, even myself, and they grow up and learn to defend themselves. Personally, its not really worth it to take your life over a bunch of stupid kids that have no home training. Now, the teachers and admins are the main ones at fault. They refuse to listen, and they don't like to try to solve the problems by working through them. Parents also have a problem with this. Your kid is only as good is the parent. Most don't have home training.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  25. jf

    It has recently been brought to my attention that my 11 year old son is being violently bullied at the school he attends. Until the end of the school year in June, my children have been removed from the school and will be home-schooled. In addition, I am filing charges against these boys for assault since this state does not have anti-bullying laws on the books. I don't blame the teachers. They have enough on their plates and they can't be everywhere all the time. I don't blame the principal. She does the best she can. I blame the ignorance of the parents because apparently, these "parents" (and I use the term very loosely) do not teach their children that there are serious ramifications for violent behavior against others, especially in schools!

    March 30, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  26. Erik Rochester

    Dr. Phil please constraint on the real problem Parents. Parents need to start bing more responsible for their kids. Thats where it all starts. Lets stop beating around the bush!!!

    Iam tired of the teachers getting the blame!!!

    March 30, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  27. Sly in Indiana

    Contrary to what Dr. Phil said about those little animals that bullied that girl not wanting this outcome "in their heart of hearts"... I believe that they probably are only sorry because of the trouble they are in, not the pain they have caused.
    Empathy is dead in too many of our youth.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  28. Mary

    I work at a school and administration and teachers do nothing to stop it. I hate bullying and I try but I'm just a teaching assist and it hurts me. I wish they would come down hard on the schools.
    Dr Phil Yes the staff at school knows and does nothing !!!!!!

    March 30, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  29. Paul D

    I think they should all go to jail. I think the school should be held reliable. But those Kids have to live with the fact that they had something to do with a young girls death.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  30. School Teachers Suck

    There are so many teachers out there who don't know, don't want to know, don't want to be bothered.
    Shame on the school administration.
    The faculty needs to be fired.
    Shame on everyone who knew anything about this situation and did nothing.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  31. Anonymous, MD

    I am a child & adolescent psychiatrist in clinical practice and have repeatedly come across situations, in which some school staff respond to bullying and harassment was "the victim needs to learn to deal with it". I have always found this outrageous, as adults if we are harassed in a work place we get an attorney and file a suit, but we somehow expect children, less psychologically equipped than adults to tolerate it. If an adult employee harasses co-worker they are dismissed but we tolerate perpetrators in a school system, which is supposed to be a protected environment. All should be held accountable.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  32. Barb in Jax

    The accused kids may not have wanted the outcome, but need to be held accountable for their actions. Where the heck are the parents? It goes right to the lack of family values and the "who cares" attititude of parents!!

    March 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  33. Omar Haleem

    They should pass the anti-bullying legislation and make it mandatory law across the country. even those who knew and did't report it should be held accountable for their criminal inaction. These criminals shoukl be locked up and other cases like these should be given priority as well. This i not the american dream this is a travesty of justice and of al the things that america stands for. how can children in school be made to suffer like this?.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  34. Luigi in the Philippines

    The parents are as much to blame. I wonder what their homes are like. What a shame. The teachers who knew about this, should be ashamed of themselves.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  35. Lynn

    I am in tears here. My granddaughter is 11, and is being bullied at her school, in Ohio. She is in counceling to help her with depression and anxiety. She is 11, with depression and anxiety and stress, what is wrong with this picture?

    March 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  36. Betty Doerr

    I fully support criminal charges. It has to send a message to other bullies and complacent faculty and students. Even without suicide, bullying kills the heart and soul on a daily basis.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  37. Angela Bjornstad

    My daughter was bullied in school for years. I went to the teachers several times every year, I went to the parents, and I went to the administration and nothing was done. Finally, my daughter quit complaining. I thought that the bullying was finished. I now know that it continued throughout grade school and junior high. One of the girls finally apologized for her bullying during high school.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  38. Erik Rochester N

    PArents Parents Parents.

    What is going on with theses kids parents. They need to be more involved with their kids and what they are doing they raise their kids. They need teach them whats right and whats wrong.

    Lets not blame the school. It starts at home!!!

    March 30, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  39. Karen

    I had my time with students picking on me when I was in school. I also think things have gotten a lot worse since the 80's when I was in school. I spent most of my time when not in school at home. I had very few friends when I was in school. It was rough, but somehow I managed to survive. I wish students would not treat others so badly.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  40. Ron

    I believe from what I have heard so far that School officials should be charged along with the kids that have been charged. If the school officials had taken action this would probably not have happened.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  41. fred nashville

    Why do the schools not do more? Because often the parents of bullies are also bullies and the staff at school fears them !

    March 30, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  42. Kimberly O

    I went to SHHS and I was bullied in the same way. First it was because I was into Art and Theater and then because I started going out with someone who was in the stoner crowd. I was pushed down the back hill several times, tripped in the hallways, slammed with locker doors, threatened with being met outside and beat the crap out of, getting my ... See Morehead shoved in the toilet, etc. It never stopped and no one did anything about it. Not the teachers, the principal or the superintendant. Not even my parents would get involved. One day, when I couldn't take it any more, I walked directly into the principal's office and said he was going to talk to these people – all of which I named, all girls – or I was going to call the police and report him of negligence. Slowly but surely, it stopped but not after enough psychological damage was done. I applaud the DA but I doubt the charges will stick. Believe me, I hope they do! I can't imagine going through what I went through and adding facebook, texting, etc to the mix. People to this day just don't believe that their children could be bullies.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  43. Chris

    So much for the "Time Out " generation. Kids need to learn at early age that they are accountable for the actions. They are truely out of control

    March 30, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  44. Jeannie C.

    They need to stop calling it Bullying. It is harassment. The word "Bullying" makes it sound like a play-ground scrap between two 5 year olds.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
  45. LisaL -Canada

    the charges brought against these teenagers are by no means too harsh. these "children" are the adults of tomorrow. those who get away with this type of behavior on the playground and in school are the workplace and social bullies of the future – except they get smarter and learn how to not get caught. were the adults in this scenario who kept their mouths shut bullies themselves?

    this has happened and will continue to happen – to adults as WELL as children. unfortunately most of those who end up dead because of excessive bullying no longer have a voice to speak out. this cycle needs to stop.

    March 30, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
  46. Flat Kansas

    Having raised a teenager, I know that bullying occurs... generally "the popular" towards the "un popular"... It's scary – it's frightening – it causes many parents to lose sleep, because (as indicated in many news accounts of this) the school administration was reluctant, or at worse, negligent to step in. Why? Perhaps afraid themselves of the backlash from the parents of the bullies. (Note the response from one of the mothers of one of Ms. Price bullies –"My daughter is not responsible"... of course not. No one wants to think _they_ have raised a bad child.

    Let's address these parents. Let's make them accountable. Maybe all parents should be held accountable for the actions of their children until the child reaches adulthood (and is this 21... drinking age?).

    More importantly, children learn what they see. I see a lot of bullying going on right now from some very frequently photographed and reported people... Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, just to name a couple of highly visible and profiled people. If young kids think that these two can get away with it... then they believe that it's the "okay thing to do"....

    Where has civility gone in this country. There can be no civilization without discipline. We need to bring back a sense of proprietary discipline in our homes and schools. Until we do – regardless of the laws passed and the good intent, bullying will continue.

    March 30, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
  47. Katja in Florida

    Wow, this kind of thing makes me sick. I believe it comes from way too much of parents letting their precious babies do whatever they want. So now they think they can treat everyone like something foul that they stepped in.
    My heart goes out to the sister and the parents. The law should prosecute the parents of the kids involved. If they had done their job, maybe this child would still be here.

    March 30, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
  48. Annie Kate

    Did Phoebe or her parents make the school administration aware of what was going on before she killed herself? IF they did then obviously the school did not do enough. Bullying at school happens a lot but not usually to this extreme – sounds like the teens doing the bullying egged each other on and the activities against Phoebe got worse and worse until it was unbearable. While it does not bring Phoebe back, I hope the teens involved in the bullying are punished to the fullest extent of the law – perhaps this will deter other teens from doing the same to someone else.

    March 30, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
  49. Stan

    Kids: Lets not fool ourself, these kids should be punished and punished severally, to send a message to others, who are doing the exact same thing daily to another young girl or boy. This type of activity is a learned activity and parents, should also be pulled on the carpet to answer, how could you raise such a awfull kid. Teachers who stood by and did nothing, SHAME on you, would you stand by and let someone bully your child, HELL NO, you would stop them in their tracks!! Lets hold kids accountable for all their actions, because one day these same kids will be adults. The prisions are full enough, lets stop this type of behavior NOW, kids are to be protected from all types of harm they face, especially at shcool.

    March 30, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  50. Whitney

    It is very sad what kids are going through in schools today. The way grown adult and the GOP was Acting on capitol hill during the health car vote no wonder kids feel bulling is ok.

    March 30, 2010 at 9:21 pm |
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