9 charged in MA school bullying case

By Anne Collier

The felony charges against nine students at South Hadley High School – including stalking, criminal harassment, violating civil rights causing bodily harm, disturbing a school assembly, and statutory rape – follow the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince in January, the Boston Globe reports. Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel said that the bullying was known to most of the student body and that “certain faculty, staff and administrators of the high school also were alerted to the harassment of Phoebe Prince before her death,” according to the Boston Herald. She added that, in reviewing the investigation, her office did consider whether school actions or failure to act amounted to criminal behavior but concluded they did not. “A lack of understanding of harassment associated with teen dating relationships seems to have been prevalent at South Hadley High School. That, in turn, brought an inconsistent interpretation in enforcement in the school’s code of conduct when incidents were observed and reported.” The DA said Phoebe’s mother spoke to “at least two school staff members” about the harassment her daughter experienced. In an editorial, the Boston Globe said the charges “mark a new seriousness about bullying,” and the state legislature has been working hard on a new anti-bullying bill that would provide school administrators with clear direction on how to handle (see my post last week). The New York Times reports that “41 other states have anti-bullying laws of varying strength.” [See also “Suicide in South Hadley” at Slate.]

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