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The big news out of South Hadley, Mass. recently is the tragic story of Phoebe Prince, the 15-year-old high school student who committed suicide because she was relentlessly bullied by a group of girls at her high school.
Prince moved to Massachusetts six months ago from Ireland. For some reason, a group of real life “Mean Girls” made it their mission to turn Phoebe’s life into a living hell. They called her an “Irish slut” at school and used social media networking sites to bombard her with a steady stream of insults and put-downs. Apparently it was over Phoebe’s date to a big school dance that was coming up. And despite school officials counseling all the students involved and doling out unspecified punishments, Phoebe hung herself in her house earlier this month.
And perhaps the most disgusting part of all of this is the fact that even after her death, the Mean Girls continued to log onto Facebook and other similar sites to trash Phoebe further.
Let’s get one thing clear and out in the open: the girls who did this to Phoebe are disgusting human beings. I don’t care that they’re teenagers. Anyone who would take these extreme measures through verbal attacks, texts and online assaults to the point that a poor girl hangs herself, is a deadbeat and a rotten human being. It’s yet to be seen if the schools could’ve done something more to prevent this, but now school officials say they’ve taken some sort of disciplinary action against the girls.
Personally I think they should be suspended or possibly even expelled depending on the details which haven’t been fully divulged yet. After driving a girl to suicide and then, even worse, continuing to degrade her even in her death, they should not be allowed to cause more trouble at their current school. And this should go on their permanent academic records so any other schools they attend will know what kind of horrid person they’re getting.
However, I do not think they should be charged criminally.
Let’s face it folks, bullying is a part of growing up. Sure it’s something that’s gotten worse and harder to protect against as technology has expanded, but whether it’s someone pummeling you in the halls and stealing your lunch money, or the mind fuck teenage girls are so adept at inflicting on one another, it is inescapable.
Should there be increased programs to raise awareness of the dangers of bullying? Yes. Should school officials be more aware of the dangers of bullying and perhaps step in sooner to prevent tragedies. Yes. But I have to draw the line at trying to legislate this problem away.
You can’t legislate a rite of passage. You legislate the fact that kids are going to pick on one another. Besides, if it gets to the point of stalking or criminal harassment there are already laws on the books that cover those situations. But a law against bullying? Hey, I’d love to make it illegal for assholes to be out in public or for fat people to wear tank tops at the grocery store. But these are annoying things that are going to happen no matter what we do. And unfortunately, there will always be bullies. The trick is to teach kids how to stand up to them and try to convince them not to become one.
The one problem I do have is that the schools haven’t released the names of the girls who did the bullying. And I’m sorry, I don’t give a shit that they’re minors. They deserve to have their names publicized for what they’ve done. Think about it. These high school kids have their names released to the media for making the honor roll, athletic achievements, etc. No one ever complains about that. But then people have the audacity to say their names shouldn’t be made public when they’ve been linked to another student’s death? Bullshit! They need to be held accountable and they should feel the full weight of the consequences of their decision to be a no-good bullying Mean Girl.
I’d love to think this latest episode will serve as a wake up call to teens everywhere. I’d love to think the silver lining of Phoebe’s death is a greater awareness regarding the dangers of bullying. But unfortunately, this kind of thing seems to happen all too regularly around the country.
As parents, we are the single greatest influence and determining factor in how our children behave. Let’s make sure they not only know that being a bully is despicable, but let’s teach them that it’s also important to rise up against bullies and stand up for those who are being picked on, even if it’s not them.
And we should tell them about Phoebe.