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The Real Mean Girls: 15-Year-Old Girl Commits Suicide After Intense Bullying

The Real Mean Girls: 15-Year-Old Girl Commits Suicide After Intense Bullying

Phoebe Prince must have been nervous on her first day of school. Moving from Ireland to western Massachusetts would be a big change, especially as the new girl in a new high school.

No-one could have predicted how hard it would be or that her younger sister would come home from school one day to find Phoebe’s lifeless 15-year-old body hanging from her closet.

What led to this tragic ending?

Relentless harassment, name-calling, stalking, intimidation, and threatened physical abuse over multiple months. The reason for the bullying – Phoebe’s brief relationship with a senior football player that had ended weeks before her suicide.

When news of Phoebe’s suicide reached the hallways of South Hadley High School, her bullies did not demonstrate regret or remorse for their actions. Instead, they took to Facebook to mock her death and continued badmouthing her at school.

Yesterday, however, 9 students (the majority female) were charged in connection with Phoebe’s untimely death including charges of statutory rape, violation of civil rights, criminal harassment, and disturbing a school assembly.

In a press conference, Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel announced that the bullying circumstances preceding Phoebe’s death “far exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship related quarrels.”

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

Investigators also found that Phoebe’s harassment was “common knowledge to most of the South Hadley High School student body” and that certain faculty, staff and administrators of the high school were also alerted to the intense bullying. While some students and faculty intervened on Phoebe’s behalf it was too little, too late.

This is a truly horrific story.

Imagine the deep desperation Phoebe must have felt to end her own life. And to think it all started because of a brief relationship she had with an older boy. Were the girls bullying her and calling her a slut because they were jealous of the new girl who landed a senior football player? Was Phoebe made a target simply because she was the new girl in school?

We may never know the answers to these questions, but in my experience I have found that in high school you are measured by three things: your relationships, your physical appearance, and your sexual activity, all of which calculate your popularity which is of utmost importance. If you’re a loner, date the wrong person, hang with the wrong crowd, or have too much sex, or none at all, you are harshly judged by your peers.

Phoebe could have been targeted for any (or all) of these reasons. It has been reported that her bullies called her a slut in the hallways and that some of the harassment stemmed from her relationship with an upper classman. For whatever reason, some students did not approve and so the campaign against Phoebe both in school and online using Facebook and other social networking sites began. 

It’s interesting that as a female Phoebe was targeted for her relationship with another boy and her alleged promiscuity (2 of the boys in this case are charged with statutory rape). Was her ex-boyfriend targeted too? No reports indicate that this was the case so why was Phoebe targeted alone?

Would these girls have devoted so much time and energy into bullying their classmate if they had more self-esteem and confidence. Perhaps I’m being naive, but I do think that bullies do what they do so that they can make themselves feel better. If we worked with girls from a young age to build their self-esteem and develop their interests (beyond being popular or pretty) perhaps we can avoid such tragic ends like Phoebe’s.

Could Phoebe’s death have been avoided? What do you think we can do to eliminate bullying? Do you think girls and boys are targeted differently?

Read more: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Phoebe Prince picture above; family photo - http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/03/holding_for_pho.html

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604 comments

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1:17AM PDT on May 4, 2013

...sorry for that pessimism...but deepest respect for anyone who suffers from bullying. I hope her family is okay:)

1:15AM PDT on May 4, 2013

We live in a broken society. Not nearly like Honduras (people could kill you for being trans or gay) or most of central Africa (too terrible to explain all the abuses there) or other places, but even as a developed nation, these problems persist. By the time the world could have enough time to become a nice peaceful place, the planet would realistically already be a violent wasteland.

10:13PM PDT on Sep 6, 2011

Sadly, Ximena is right about being naive in one regard, as we all tend to be. It is a persistent myth that bullies behave as they do because they have low self-esteem, but numerous studies have demonstrated that bullies most often have very high self-esteem (as violent offenders in prison also tend to score high on self-esteem measures). That's why the bullies in this case would have celebrated rather than shown remorse. They believe they have every right to behave this way. Even worse, a study I recently stumbled on demonstrated that bullying behavior directly correlates to popularity. I taught in public schools for several years, and it is just awful that this behavior is ignored or minimized by many education professionals (or even worse, encouraged!... as hard as it is to believe, I have occasionally seen it happen). As difficult and complicated as it can be, we simply must do a better job at putting a stop to these behavior patterns.

4:24PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

Poor girl. She had to go through so much suffering. Why do people base so much on outside issues. I don't judge my friends by who they date. I hope her family is coping.

9:58AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

All the movies and documentaries I've seen about high schools made me think they are kind of a light verson of prison. But in general, teenagers may be extremely aggressive.
In those documentaries they said they lacked their parent's guidance and attention, while their parents considered them "big boys/girls", able to resolve their problems on their own. So I believe, first of all, parents should be more attentive to what's happening to their kids. Administration is administration, they should pay attention to it, of course, but they will never be interested enough in kids' life, so it's mostly up to parents.

9:50AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

These suicides due to bullying are becoming more and more frequent. Its ridiculous how intense young girls can be to eachother.

8:55AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

Diane-the bullies are doing high fives (or at least they were until their arrests). I think they were enjoying the idea that they could actually push someone into committing suicide. These are very psychiatriclly disturbed children who I suspect were aided and abetted or at least encouraged in their attitudes by their parents. It's the philosophy of being a "winner" or a "loser" that contributes to this.

8:55AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

Another thing, where does the school play a part in this. Why did'nt someone report what was going on? There should have been an intervention. If there is anyone going thru this PLEASE report it to your parents, relative or a good friend, talk to a pastor and especially the school. Just go to the police too. I would back you up and I'm sure there are thousands of others that would too.
Never, never give up hope. It takes a special strength to survive this kind of situation. You know what, those ignorant onee's are the loosers in the long run.

8:48AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

Those that bullied her will have this on there minds for the rest of their sick lives. They should be punished to the fullest degree. They are evil and jealous! They need their own butts kicked!
They think they are tuff in numbers. But truely cowards! Hope you bit**s rott.

8:39AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

What does this say about our society? People are bullied in school, in the workforce in the military. Have we become so use to it that it is thought of as the norm? (just suck it up or hey deal with it) NO!!
Where was the principal? Why wasn't the school board informed? Was it thought of as Just another one who can't deal with normal life?
NO!!! This is not normal and Not Acceptable!!
My apologies to Phoebe's family as part of the Human Race.

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