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South Hadley Suicide Spurs Action On School Bullying

This article is more than 11 years old.

State lawmakers are working to craft a bill against school bullying, following the suicide last month of a freshman at South Hadley High School who is thought to have killed herself after enduring harassment by her classmates at school and online.

Rep. Marty Walz, chairwoman of the Legislature's education committee, said the issue has taken on new urgency after the death of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince. "The events in South Hadley underscore the importance of our taking action," she said, "but we also need to respect the fact that students have the right to free speech."

Walz said the 12 bills before the committee deal mainly with establishing mandates for how schools respond to bullying incidents.

Parents of South Hadley High students are also calling for action on the part of the school. They say they want to know how school officials plan to discipline the girls involved in Prince's bullying and what they will do to prevent further tragedies.

Mitchell Brouillard, who has a daughter at South Hadley, said there need to be clearer and stricter consequences for bullying. "I'd like to see a solid line in the sand, if you will, or in stone," he said. "Pretty much like a three-step process — first being a verbal warning, then suspension, then expulsion."

A petition is being circulated calling for South Hadley School Superintendent Gus Sayer to be fired over his handling of the issue.

This program aired on February 3, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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