“Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you” is a phrase many parents tell their children to comfort them when they’re upset about a playground bully’s taunting behavior.
In Phoebe Prince’s case it wasn’t sticks and stones, but it was a combination of the scarf her sister had given her for Christmas, an energy drink can, endless taunting and berating and the cruel slurs her peers shouted at her in the high school cafeteria.
Found by her sister, almost three months ago, Prince reportedly hung herself with a noose she assembled from her scarf in her parents home because of the constant bullying she faced daily at her school, South Hadley High School in Massachusetts. Students at the school apparently harassed her, calling her an “Irish whore”, defacing her photos in public places, and sending her death threats via the social media networking site, Facebook.
Prince’s friends said that she did reach out to the school’s faculty about the bullying, but her pleas fell on deaf ears, as the students she was accusing were the some of the school’s most athletically, socially and academically thriving students.
The state’s district attorney Elizabeth Scheibel brought justice for Prince and took action by creatively charging six students for their connections to her suicide.
Scheibel said, “the attacks on Pheobe were orchestrated and unrelenting; and they far exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship-related quarrels.”
Four girls were charged with stalking and criminal harassment, assault by means of a dangerous weapon, in this case it was the energy drink can and civil rights violations. Two males, Austin Renaud, 18 and Sean Mulveyhill, 17 were charged with statutory rape, even though the boys’ relations with Prince were reportedly consensual, Prince was only 15 years of age.
All of the accused have entered not guilty pleas.
Sadly, Prince used to sign her text messages with “life is an opportunity in itself.”