Mean (Girls)>(Part 2)   Leave a comment

Did any of you Google “Phoebe Prince” like I suggested in my last post? For the next few days, we will be examining what drove this young girl to do the unthinkable. Pulled from numerous sources about this young girl,  I urge you to share these posts with your friends who have children. Most young people who are bullied are ashamed to admit it. If you can help me get these posts into the hands of other parents, we could hopefully prevent other tragedies.

It was fall when she moved from Ireland into western Massachusetts. A new town, a new high school, a new country, a new culture. She was 15, when all that matters is being liked and wearing the right clothes and just fitting in.

Fast forward to January. She couldn’t take it anymore. On that fateful winter day, Phoebe was walking home from school when one of the Mean Girls drove by in a car. An insult and an energy drink can came flying out the car window in Phoebe’s direction. Phoebe kept walking, past the abuse, past the can, past the white picket fence, into her house. Then she walked into a closet and hanged herself.  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. For this she became the target of the Mean Girls, who decided then and there that Phoebe didn’t know her place and that Phoebe would pay.

Kids can be mean, but the Mean Girls took it to another level, according to students and parents. They followed Phoebe around, calling her a slut. When they wanted to be more specific, they called her an Irish slut. 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 and mocked her in death.

They told State Police detectives they did nothing wrong, had nothing to do with Phoebe killing herself. And then they went right back to school and started badmouthing Phoebe. They had a dance, a cotillion, at the Log Cabin in Holyoke two days after Phoebe’s sister found her in the closet, and some who were there say one of the Mean Girls bragged about how she played dumb with the detectives who questioned her.

In the wake of the suicide, one of the area’s TV stations sent a crew to South Hadley High to talk to the kids. One girl was interviewed on camera, and she said what was common knowledge: that bullies were stalking the corridors of South Hadley High. As soon as the TV crew was out of sight, one of the Mean Girls came up and slammed the girl who had been interviewed against a locker and punched her in the head.

The Mean Girls are pretty, and popular, and play sports.

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. Her bullies called her a slut in the hallways and 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.

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?

More on bullying coming up…

Posted May 24, 2011 by greggornation in Family, School

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Facts & Dreams

"Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet." -Victor Hugo

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