The Associated Press

9 Charged In Bullying Of Mass Teen Who Killed Self

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — Insults and threats followed 15-year-old Phoebe Prince almost from her first day at South Hadley High School, targeting the Irish immigrant in the halls, library and in vicious cell phone text messages.

Phoebe, ostracized for having a brief relationship with a popular boy, reached her breaking point and hanged herself after one particularly hellish day in January – a day that, according to officials, included being hounded with slurs and pelted with a beverage container as she walked home from school.

South Hadley High School freshman Phoebe Prince, 15, is thought to have killed herself after enduring harassment by her classmates at school and online.

Now, nine teenagers face charges in what a prosecutor called “unrelenting” bullying, including two teen boys charged with statutory rape and a clique of girls charged with stalking, criminal harassment and violating Phoebe’s civil rights.

School officials won’t be charged, even though authorities say they knew about the bullying and that Phoebe’s mother brought her concerns to at least two of them.

Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel, who announced the charges Monday, said the events before Phoebe’s death on Jan. 14 were “the culmination of a nearly three-month campaign of verbally assaultive behavior and threats of physical harm” widely known among the student body.

“The investigation revealed relentless activity directed toward Phoebe, designed to humiliate her and to make it impossible for her to remain at school,” Scheibel said. “The bullying, for her, became intolerable.”

Scheibel said the case is still under investigation and that one other person could be charged. It wasn’t immediately known Monday whether the teens who have been charged have attorneys.

Scheibel said the harassment began in September, occurring primarily in school and in person, although some of it surfaced on Facebook and in other electronic forms. At least four students and two faculty members intervened to try to stop it or report it to administrators, she said.

Schiebel refused to discuss the circumstances of the rape charges.

No school officials are being charged because they had “a lack of understanding of harassment associated with teen dating relationships,” and the school’s code of conduct was interpreted and enforced in an “inconsistent” way, Scheibel said.

“Nevertheless, the actions – or inactions – of some adults at the school are troublesome,” she said.

A message seeking comment was left Monday for South Hadley Schools Superintendent Gus A. Sayer.

Phoebe was born in Bedford, England and moved to County Clare, Ireland, when she was 2. She moved last summer to South Hadley, home to Mount Holyoke College, because the family had relatives there.

Her family has since moved away and could not immediately be located for comment. Scheibel spoke for them at a news conference to announce the charges.

“The Prince family has asked that the public refrain from vigilantism in favor of allowing the judicial system an opportunity to provide a measure of justice for Phoebe,” she said.

Some students accused of participating in the bullying have been disciplined by the school and will not be returning to classes.

The Massachusetts Legislature cited Prince’s death and the apparent suicide of 11-year-old Carl Walker-Hoover of Springfield last year when members passed anti-bullying legislation earlier this month.

South Hadley is among several college towns in western Massachusetts that pride themselves on their urbane cultural offerings, good schools and safe streets. After Phoebe’s death, the community formed an anti-bullying task force that drew more than 400 people to its first meeting in February.

Robert Judge, a South Hadley selectman and task force member, said hundreds of people have become involved in hope that something good comes from the incident.

“Like most towns, we like to think of ourselves as a good place to live, and then this happens and your reputation is sullied nationally and even internationally, and people look at you differently, and they make assumptions,” Judge said.

Scheibel said the teens will be issued summonses to appear in court on yet-undetermined dates. The teens who face criminal charges under the indictments announced Monday are:

– Sean Mulveyhill, 17, of South Hadley. Charged with statutory rape, violation of civil rights resulting in bodily injury, criminal harassment and disturbance of a school assembly. A woman who answered the phone at his home Monday would not identify herself and told The Associated Press, “You don’t know the full story.”

– Kayla Narey, 17, of South Hadley. Charged with violation of civil rights resulting in bodily injury, criminal harassment and disturbance of a school assembly. A message left at a number listed to a Narey family was not immediately returned; another line was out of service.

– Austin Renaud, 18, of Springfield. Charged with statutory rape. A telephone number could not immediately be found.

– Ashley Longe, 16, of South Hadley. Charged as a youthful offender with violation of civil rights resulting in bodily injury. A telephone number could not immediately be found.

– Sharon Chanon Velazquez, 16, of South Hadley. Charged as a youthful offender with stalking and violation of civil rights resulting in bodily injury. There was no telephone listing.

– Flannery Mullins, 16, of South Hadley. Charged as a youthful offender with stalking and violation of civil rights resulting in bodily injury. A message left at a Mullins home was not immediately returned.

Three 16-year-old South Hadley girls, whose names were not released, face delinquency charges that include the civil rights offense, criminal harassment and disturbance of a school assembly.

Related Link:

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • Mike Pento

    I find it shocking that school personnel who were aware of the bullying but did nothing to stop it are not found culpable for their inaction.

    I am glad that the students involved are being disciplined, but, it would seem to me that the lions share of blame should be cast on the responsible adults who were aware of the problem, yet stood by idly and did nothing.

  • Marion

    The physical assaults and bullying took place on school grounds. According to reports, school officials — adults charged with insuring the protection and safety of minors during the school day — did nothing to stop it or discipline the offenders. These same adults are accessories to the underlying crimes, and guilty of negligence.

  • bill

    I agree with you both. Have they at least lost their jobs?

  • Christopher Robinson

    How can an administration that seeks to escape responsibility be considered worthy of teaching any kind of
    example for youth?

  • Bill G

    I wonder where “children” like this come from. Is the need to be accepted so overpowering that the mob mind takes over and kills all sense of human empathy? “You don’t know the full story.” What could we possibly not know that would excuse treating another human being in this fashion, even after her death?

  • JP

    I agree with the other posters. The prosecution’s reasoning for not targeting the adult staff members stinks. I would not like to see this set a precedent.

    The focus on the schoolkids seems like part of the unfortunate trend of criminalizing children’s behavior in schools. First the administrators ignore (& thus implicitly condone) their behavior, then all of the sudden, the police are brought in- talk about “inconsistent behavior.” Now we are ruining 9 young lives along with the one that was already ruined. What’s the strategy here?

    There’s also so much we don’t know about the family situation. Was the girl in counseling in order to deal with this abuse? Did the parents attempt to switch schools or take any action beyond calling a few administrators? Did the girl have a history of depression? So many unanswered questions in this tragic story.

  • EIO Boston

    The adults should be promptly fired and not allowed to mind chilren in the future.

  • Pat Dolan

    When I was a child, our mass media role models defended the weak. Bullies were always “the bad guys,” social outcasts whose behavior was reprehensible.

    Now their counterparts focus on dominating others by force and showing contempt for the weak, the “losers.” From chanting “we’re number one” to screaming epithets at kids on other sports teams to right-wing radio, our culture has adopted a mean-spirited dehumanization of anyone who is “different.”

    This tendency to cluster in supportive groups is part of our tribal human nature- people identify others as “in-group” and “out-group” as part of our evolutionary heritage. However, the expression of these urges is culturally shaped, and our culture, in its dread of appearing “square” or “corny,” has abandoned decency and kindness as admirable traits. In many of our subcultures, status is based on how well you have beaten others.

    I suspect these kids never questioned what they were doing- their peer group supported them and egged them on. I think they had a great time tormenting this girl- it showed that they were winners, she was a loser. Don’t get me wrong- I don’t hold them blameless- they need a sharp an severe readjustment of their values and an new understanding of the consequences of their actions.

    But how did such heartless cruelty become so widespread, so accepted by lots of young people? If a few kids started this, why weren’t their classmates intervening, disapproving of their ganging up and picking on this girl? Do they buy into the cruelty, or are they just afraid they’ll be the next victims?

  • Danny

    I agree the school administrators as well as the bullies’ parents should also be held accountable.

    But I am troubled by some of the comments, particularly JP’s wondering why didn’t the parents switch her school or questioning whether the girl had underlying depression. It’s a bit too close to blaming the victim.

    Those other 9 teens, well, their lives should be impacted — they caused a girl to kill herself for crying out loud. Phoebe can’t come back to life, just go on as if nothing happened, and those bullies shouldn’t either. They need to be held responsible for their actions, as should their parents. The school administrators, or whoever was notified by the victim’s mother, should be fired and have a permanent note on their record, if not also held criminally responsible.

    It’s good to question the school community and society as a whole and place the blame there, but in doing so let’s please not forget the real victim.

  • Jan

    There so many levels of responsiblity here. First, the school officials did not live up to the theirs, and because of their inaction one child’s life is abruptly over and 9 are ruined. Second, parents must teach their children common respect, compassion and empahty. We live in a fast-paced, high-pressure, hectic society where these basics are too often overlooked. And third, by the time a child is 5 years old he knows the difference between right and wrong. These children need to take responsiblity for their actions, too. To bully is wrong, to feel no remorse afterwards is inhuman. Kids need to be strong and think independently, stick up for the less fortunate, and be good to each other. Otherwise where are we headed?

  • marcia

    I am an adult and I experienced the same behavior in a work environment, so I say to any parent whose child tells them they are being harrased, dont advise your child on how to handle it put a stop to it the second you learn about it. do not expect teachers or any other faculty members to protect your child because a lot of people witness this behavior and refuse to speakout because they are afraid of being retaliated against. in order to protect your child from further emotional or physical damage take them out immediately. my life will never be the same all because of male hormones, jealousy and pure hate. everyone please contact your legislatures so that the necessary steps can be taken to legally punish these monsters and the schools or employers that keep them!

  • Effie

    In Phoebe’s honor, a clean sweep is perhaps necessary of the school administration. One way of going forward would be to have School administrators( and perhaps school committee members) appear before a designated, impartial third party and all asked a series of questions as part of a fact finding effort. Once this was completed, a report would be prepared by the third party and given to the Board of Selectmen/Town Manager with copies issued to taxpayers/townspeople. School officials who opt not to cooperate, could be dismissed. Those officials who ignored warnings about the abuse could be dismissed as well. Those individuals who attempted to illuminate the bullying/abuse should be listened to and if appropiate, given promotions or administration jobs. Those individuals who turned a blind eye, but cannot be held accountable, could be mandated to attend a course or courses on courage, commitment, and ethics.
    The townspeople/taxpayers of South Hadley, and any other town for that matter, have a right to expect that the individuals who are selected/hired to work in its schools, are the highest quality of professionals, as these individuals are given the privilege and responsibility of inter alia, protecting our most precious resources.
    The alleged bullying students will be held accountable in the court system. Their alleged bullying behavior, (one would imagine that when they were acting out against Phoebe, they had no fear of consequences.) They will now be scrutinized by the public and the press. Are their lives ruined? No, of course not. This too shall pass and hopefully, if the students are able to understand their behavior and the real origins of their cruelty and eventually feel remorseful for their actions, they may all go forward with peaceful, happy lives. (The tragedy is that Phoebe will never have that opportunity.)

    The parents of these students may be now forced to look at their parenting behavior which of course plays a significant part in this case. Children practice what they learn at home, as much as we may not want to admit this. Happy, well adjusted, kind spirited children do not hurt or harm their peers.

    Ultimately, this is about courage and the ability to stand up and take responsibility for one’s part, no matter what the possible outcome is. It is difficult to confront or question the wisdom or behavior of the people we live with, we work with, we employ, or just hang out with. In this case, however, there was a mandate placed upon the shoulders of adults, to report and to act. This is not discretionary matter and the school officials did not have the luxury of wondering what they should or should not do….Not to have fulfilled or lived up to this mandate, should be met with serious consequences for those who flagrantly disregarded it.

  • Leslie

    I think the main thing parents must do when they suspect their children are being bullied to any degree is to immediately show support. In this day and age, as discussed by the other forum participants, teaching pat solutions and flip come-backs may not work. Tell your kids you will take them out of the school if necessary. If they fear they will be the odd one out at another school, tell them you’ll home school them. Hopefully you won’t have to do either of these things, but your child won’t be feeling utter despair in the meantime to the point of suicide while you try to follow the channels and sort out the problem.

  • Kate Brown

    I grew up with bullies in my schools – both public and private. They were often popular & athletic and were both male and female. I think this behavior is disgusting and I am glad they are being held accountable. Its just mean and no one has the right to harass another to “put them in their place”.

    I believe the school officials need to be held accountable to some degree. Bullying can be a real safety issue and it is the schools responsibility to keep students safe on the grounds. I do believe this look the other way – teenagers will do what they will policy is outdated and dangerous. Schools do not hesitate to get involved when athletes are caught drinking or photos are being “sexted” around – so why should they have the right to choose to look the other way with bullies? These girls are more than likely mean and mean to more than just Phoebe. I want to see people fired and these kids sentenced. what a tragedy.

  • John Wilson

    The school administrators should be dismissed and held responsible for not acting on behalf Phoebe Prince since they were fully award of the bullying by the 9 students that were involved. These 9 students should be dismissed from school and not be allowed to graduate and received their diploma.
    They all should receive a long jail sentence for what they did to Phoebe. And I hope the people that live in Northampton do everything can to support Phoebe’s family and to constantly remind the families of the 9 accused students of what there children have done to a 15 year of girl that did absolutely did nothing to them. These accused students and there families are very lucky I do not live the area because I would make there lives one living hell.

  • Genevieve Hunt

    The parents of these bullies are in serious denial.” You don’t know the full story.” Are you kidding me? Mom and Dad , you don’t know the full story of these sociopathic monsters you’ve raised. You’ve been asleep at the wheel for years. Peel the layers back of these families and you are going to see a lot of emotional dysfunction,no boundary setting and basic lack of respect. It’s absolutely true that good, happy, well-adjusted kids don’t bully, because they don’t need to. And BTW, these bullies enjoyed every minute of the torture they inflicted on this girl. They knew exactly what they were doing, they just didn’t expect reality to bite back so hard. So now, for the rest of their lives, their actions are going to be a heavy load to bear. Every admissions counselor and employer is going to Google their names and that will be the end of any future opportunities. Can you imagine how many future romantic partners will Google their names and run the other way? Phoebe may be gone but these brats have just started their own living death. And don’t worry about “ruining” the lives of these nine kids. They’ve done a great job of that all by themselves.

  • Jeff Kersh

    If Phoebe had gone out and bought a gun and shot up the school, the administrators would have cared because their own lives would have been at risk. She turned her grief and misery on herself, so they couldn’t care less. Everybody who touched this situation should be suffering.

  • JM

    I hope that all these kids get a taste of what it’s like to be bullied in prison. As a former bullied high school student it seems the only way to get the message across is to have an extreme example made of these people. My condolences to the parents; particularly because I too am Irish.

  • Frank Cooper

    The Administrater and teachers will be protected by the union from being fired, although that’s what they deserve. I wonder how many of the bullies will get new cars from their parents since their feelings have been hurt.

  • tony o’loughlin

    Your article on the young girl from Ireland who was so driven to despair that she took her own life is very disturbing. She was obviously a victim, as is her 12 year old sister, her parents, and likely some of the staff at her school who, with hindsight, feel guilt at not having interviened. Hopefully the full force of the courts will be used against those who have no remorse for their actions. Kingston Irish Folk Club extends its condolences to her family and Phoebe Prince will be prayed for at our commemorations.

    Tony O’Loughlin
    Kingston Irish Folk Club
    Canada

  • carrie

    i am so ticked off by this story…those kids need to have the hell beat out of them. how mean! how horrible! that poor girl! i am just so angry about this. nobody helped her, no one took up for her…wtf is going on in this society of ours when we accept hateful behavior?

  • rich1234

    I am so very sadden by this story and for the Prince family.

    Being an immigrant from China when I was I kid, I too was bullied because of my look, my accent and my body stature.

    I only wish I was there to defend Phoebe and help her. The jerks who did this to her should be prosecuted at the fullest extent of the laws for first degree murder and their parents are also responsible for raising they children to become murderers.

  • M. Wilson

    Carrie, “beating the hell” out of kids merely gives them permission to do the same to others. How ironic you should use this language.

  • Prudy Horne

    There whould be no question that the school’s
    teachers and administrators who had knowledge
    about this bullying should lose their jobs.
    No question, that this girl could have been helped
    if they had intervened and given her support.

    What a terrible shame for this girl, her family and friends!

  • Bettye Mondy

    The school, along with the students and their parents should be punished. I only wish that Phoebe could have made another decision but being young sometimes you don’t think. If they don’t pay now, God is going to punish all of them. Think of the hell that her family is going through that could have been avoided. Beauty is a destroyer in some eyes. The girls were jealous and took it out on her. what a shame. They will rot in hell for this.Even if they are not punished by law I know that they have a conscience and that is going to be a monster for them to bear for the remaining of their lives.

  • Bettye Mondy

    I certainly hope, with all of heart that this murder will follow them for the rest of their lives and that everyone that they come in contact with will know what they have done. This will not be a pretty situation to be found in.This will be something that will be with them always because believe me, whatever you do it follows you for ever. Imagine having to live with this guilt.

Most Popular