Case to watch re:bullying -- MASS charges 9 teens on teen suicide

mkrishnan

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Jan 9, 2004
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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/us/30bully.html?hpw=&pagewanted=all

NYT said:
It is not clear what some students at South Hadley High School expected to achieve by subjecting a freshman to the relentless taunting described by a prosecutor and classmates.

Certainly not her suicide. And certainly not the multiple felony indictments announced on Monday against several students at the Massachusetts school.

The prosecutor brought charges Monday against nine teenagers, saying their taunting and physical threats were beyond the pale and led the freshman, Phoebe Prince, to hang herself from a stairwell in January.

The charges were an unusually sharp legal response to the problem of adolescent bullying, which is increasingly conducted in cyberspace as well as in the schoolyard and has drawn growing concern from parents, educators and lawmakers.

In the uproar around the suicides of Ms. Prince, 15, and an 11-year-old boy subjected to harassment in nearby Springfield last year, the Massachusetts legislature stepped up work on an anti-bullying law that is now near passage. The law would require school staff members to report suspected incidents and principals to investigate them. It would also demand that schools teach about the dangers of bullying. Forty-one other states have anti-bullying laws of varying strength.

In the Prince case, two boys and four girls, ages 16 to 18, face a different mix of felony charges that include statutory rape, violation of civil rights with bodily injury, harassment, stalking and disturbing a school assembly. Three younger girls have been charged in juvenile court, Elizabeth D. Scheibel, the Northwestern district attorney, said at a news conference in Northampton, Mass.

Appearing with state and local police officials on Monday, Ms. Scheibel said that Ms. Prince’s suicide came after nearly three months of severe taunting and physical threats by a cluster of fellow students.

“The investigation revealed relentless activities directed toward Phoebe to make it impossible for her to stay at school,” Ms. Scheibel said. The conduct of those charged, she said, “far exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship-related quarrels.”

It was particularly alarming, the district attorney said, that some teachers, administrators and other staff members at the school were aware of the harassment but did not stop it. “The actions or inactions of some adults at the school were troublesome,” Ms. Scheibel said, but did not violate any laws.

[Article Continues]
I think this case and the findings will be interesting to watch, to understand the continuing development of managing school bullying and the legal ramifications of bullying behavior (this one doesn't have as much of a cyber-bullying emphasis, though, as some of the other recent memorable ones).

Sounds like a tragic sequence of events...
 

MattSepeta

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Jul 9, 2009
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Shame

Terrible shame. The worst part is the last paragraph. The teachers were aware.

I remember teachers/administrators telling us that they legally assumed the role of parents/guardians during school hours.

There is no excuse for this stuff happening
 

Ugg

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Apr 7, 2003
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I believe that the increase in bullying with fatal results is a reflection of the fact that kids don't play anymore. They may have playdates, they may start T-ball or soccer or ballet at the age of three but it seems as though they are rarely given the chance to resolve things amongst themselves. So, once they're in school, it turns into a nightmare of mob behaviour.

Unfortunately, bullying can be hard to detect and virtually impossible during the internet age to prevent. Schools should do more, but I think the only way it's going to happen is to force them to hire "bullying" officers. Either that, or let the little ankle biters start to work things out for themselves at an earlier age.
 

mkrishnan

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Good. It's about time.
Just to play devil's advocate, if the rationale is that there is an opportunity to stop bullying on which the schools are failing to capitalize, isn't this an opportunity (like "zero tolerance" policies) for the school to throw up their hands and not deal with it, since the police will?

I believe that the increase in bullying with fatal results is a reflection of the fact that kids don't play anymore. [...]
That's an interesting point... there is a lot of research that says that kids in the US don't have the unstructured time that they used to. Although, clearly, they have plenty of time to hatch all these nefarious plots. And secondly, kids were being bullied and committed suicide because of it long, long ago -- decades and even centuries ago. The methods have changed, but the process itself happened. I'm not sure there is particular evidence that these kinds of things are "on the rise" vs. that they happened, but they were not as discussed, when you were a child or when your parents were children. That would lead me to wonder whether the structural changes that have happened over time are really likely to be to blame.
 

ucfgrad93

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Aug 17, 2007
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Unfortunately, bullying can be hard to detect and virtually impossible during the internet age to prevent. Schools should do more, but I think the only way it's going to happen is to force them to hire "bullying" officers. Either that, or let the little ankle biters start to work things out for themselves at an earlier age.
I agree. Schools can't completely prevent something like this from happening. But it seems like more could have been done to stop some of this from happening during school.
 

barkomatic

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Aug 8, 2008
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Clearly, its awful that these kids were somehow able to bully this girl to the point where she committed suicide. It sounds like in this case, the school was partially to blame (along with the bullies themselves of course).

However, this is the type of black and white case that sparks "zero tolerance" policies that make little sense. For example, a 8 year old going to jail for calling another child a "stupid head". It seems schools are unable to judge the level of seriousness of these situations on a case by case basis and over compensate with draconian punishments. Also, it has to be remembered that many students are mentally ill or clinicly depressed and would commit suicide regardless.
 

sysiphus

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May 7, 2006
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Agreed, bullying is a bad thing. Shame on the school for not taking steps to prevent this.
If, and only if, it occurred on school grounds under school supervision. Outside of that, it's fantastic if school is a positive influence, but that's where I'd draw the line.
 

184550

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May 8, 2008
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If, and only if, it occurred on school grounds under school supervision. Outside of that, it's fantastic if school is a positive influence, but that's where I'd draw the line.
I completely agree, schools cannot be expected to police social networking sites or other forms of online social interactions that go on between students.

However, as I understand from reading the CNN article, most of the bullying took place on school grounds, during school hours.
 

sysiphus

macrumors 6502a
May 7, 2006
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I completely agree, schools cannot be expected to police social networking sites or other forms of online social interactions that go on between students.

However, as I understand from reading the CNN article, most of the bullying took place on school grounds, during school hours.
Ah. Fair enough, then.
 

ucfgrad93

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Aug 17, 2007
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I completely agree, schools cannot be expected to police social networking sites or other forms of online social interactions that go on between students.

However, as I understand from reading the CNN article, most of the bullying took place on school grounds, during school hours.
Agreed. The school is not in a position to police social websites, however, they certainly have an obligation to try and prevent this from happening during school hours.
 

bobertoq

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Feb 29, 2008
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It's disgusting that many teachers witnessed the bullying and did nothing about it! I'm surprised there aren't laws that require teachers to prevent bullying.
 

Lyle

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Jun 11, 2003
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It's disgusting that many teachers witnessed the bullying and did nothing about it!
I'm not excusing what the teachers allegedly did (or didn't) do, but I can understand why they might have been reluctant to get involved absent the lack of laws covering bullying.

If a teacher attempted to discipline one of the bullies, there is a remarkably good chance that the bully's parents would sue the teacher and/or school system for harassment. It's happened for a lot less.
 

NT1440

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May 18, 2008
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However, this is the type of black and white case that sparks "zero tolerance" policies that make little sense. For example, a 8 year old going to jail for calling another child a "stupid head".
Schools can send people to jail now? :confused:

This is hypothetical.....right?
 

MattSepeta

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Jul 9, 2009
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Hmmmm

After rethinking this one, I think the kids are to blame wayyyy more than the school.

I doubt these kids meant to drive the girl to suicide, but they should be expelled from the public school system.

We need to do something about education to keep kids like these out of the schools.

I believe that part of the problems facing our school systems are the kids that don't want to learn and would rather harass and bully sitting right by the kids that do want to learn.

I have no idea how to fix this, but its unfair to blame the school system. Blame the kids, and the kids parents a little bit. The school system oversteps enough as it is, we don't need them thought-policing our children, too.
 

ucfgrad93

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Aug 17, 2007
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The kids who did the bullying are ultimately responsible. That said, schools have an obligation to make schools as safe as possible. They can't stop everything, but it seems like they could have done more in this particular case.
 

MattSepeta

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Jul 9, 2009
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Yup

The "perpetrators" were all 16-18, and I think once you are that old you should be held accountable.

However, I am surprised no one has put this spin on the issue yet:
Isn't it the girls fault most of all? She did kill herself. These kids did not kill her.

I realize that it is terrible and heartless, what these kids did and how they treated her, but isn't part of my 1st amendment right the right to make fun of you?

I am not sure how much of this was done at school vs away from school, but I think it warrants some discussion?
 

NT1440

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May 18, 2008
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The "perpetrators" were all 16-18, and I think once you are that old you should be held accountable.

However, I am surprised no one has put this spin on the issue yet:
Isn't it the girls fault most of all? She did kill herself. These kids did not kill her.

I realize that it is terrible and heartless, what these kids did and how they treated her, but isn't part of my 1st amendment right the right to make fun of you?

I am not sure how much of this was done at school vs away from school, but I think it warrants some discussion?
Seems like they did more than just make fun of her, there is a statutory rape allegation in there....
 

MattSepeta

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Jul 9, 2009
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Yes

Yes, but one individual is guilty of that and should be punished to the full extent of the law. The physical harm and threats should also be punished.

What about all the other kids just "taunting"? Can't they make fun of her for "hooking up with" the older guy anyways? Not that they should.

I am interested to hear more about this as more details go public.
 

mkrishnan

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Original poster
Jan 9, 2004
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Seems like they did more than just make fun of her, there is a statutory rape allegation in there....
The details of everything are sketchy, but what seems to have happened is that this freshman had sex with a senior boy, and at least some of the bullying started after that (with her being called a slut, etc). Presumably that senior's the person who's being charged with the statutory rape count, but it's not clear whether that was "part of" the bullying per se.
 

TechieJustin

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Nov 22, 2009
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The way I dealt with a bully in 7th grade was the best... I snuck up behind him and cracked him over the head with a brick. :D
He needed three stitches and had a bald spot on his head where the cut was.

Best part: he never messed with me again.
 

NT1440

macrumors G5
May 18, 2008
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The way I dealt with a bully in 7th grade was the best... I snuck up behind him and cracked him over the head with a brick. :D
He needed three stitches and had a bald spot on his head where the cut was.

Best part: he never messed with me again.
Wow, you realize you could have killed the kid right? :eek:

Even with my mentality in 7th grade I'd never dream of doing that, then again I'm so much of a peace-nick that my name is nick.....:eek: