Friday, April 09, 2010

Phoebe Prince's school doesn't want to know the truth, but it's not alone

In my experience, school administrators and board members try to remain as ignorant as possible of wrongdoing in schools.

Family pal: School officials ‘gutless’
By Marie Szaniszlo
April 10, 2010

SOUTH HADLEY - A friend of Phoebe Prince’s family yesterday called the South Hadley School Committee “gutless” for failing to find out why the school’s investigation into the bullying the 15-year-old endured differed so widely from the district attorney’s.

Darby O’Brien, a father of two who has spoken for the Prince family in recent weeks, said the school board should have called an emergency meeting after Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel announced the indictments of six students in connection with the teen’s suicide.

“Where’s the gutless school committee?” O’Brien said, urging people to attend Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. meeting at the high school.

School Committee Chairman Edward Boiselle, who has questioned Scheibel’s findings, could not be reached for comment yesterday as new details emerged about the months of torment Prince allegedly endured before she hanged herself Jan. 14 in the stairwell of her home.

In court filings, prosecutors allege that one 16-year-old defendant told students that she was going to beat Prince up for going out with another of the defendants, a 17-year-old boy, and that Prince “needed to watch out at break.”

Prince allegedly was also verbally assaulted in class, in the library, in the cafeteria, in the bathroom and on her way home from school by the defendants, who called her a “whore” and an “Irish slut,” leaving her in tears, according to court documents.

By Jan. 13, prosecutors allege, Prince told a confidante that school had become “close to intolerable.”

Phoebe Prince, Facebook and predators
by Steven Tarlow

...As Dr. Ablow suggests, people who fit the standard profile of a bully can quickly detect a weakness in their prey, as they did with the Phoebe Prince Facebook. Such bullies are fueled by a need to tear down others, so they quickly develop the ability to find their openings with bitter efficiency.

Being a teenager is difficult for anyone, but for a girl like Phoebe Prince, who was both pretty and unsure of her place in the world, it is particularly difficult. While millions would give anything to be good looking, the reality as Dr. Ablow has observed is that if a teens lack confidence, being attractive can make them targets, rather than popular. Bands of bullies look to tear down people whom they feel do not have the defenses to mount resistance.

Hating was the Mean Girls’ drug, suggests Dr. Ablow

“Dehumanizing her had to have been intoxicating,” he told Fox. Otherwise, what would have been the point? Gleaning information from the Phoebe Prince Facebook was a means to an end – in this case, a high, says Ablow. Considering how widespread social media like Facebook are today, it’s easy to see how dangerous sensitive personal information can be in the wrong hands. Not only can identity theft issues arise and destroy credit, but as in the case of the Phoebe Prince Facebook, it can destroy the psyche.

Is controlling bullying possible?

Dr. Ablow asserts that “In a controlled population like a school system, it is possible, from early grades, to instill in young people a psychiatrist’s view of those who perpetrate violence toward others—as broken, rather than brazen; gripped by emotional disorder, rather than in control.”

Once bullies are no longer glamorized as James Dean-esque rebels, then perhaps the needed cultural shift can occur. Detention and suspensions are ineffective tools, Dr. Ablow feels – better methods for dealing with discipline in schools are needed. Concern is needed, not scorn. Total removal and home schooling until a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist can assure a school that the bully is no longer a threat to themselves or others. Parents or caregivers have to step up...


Deval Patrick: Parents failed in alleged bullying case
By Associated Press
April 9, 2010

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick says Massachusetts has to recapture a sense of cross-family parental responsibility to prevent bullying and other harm to children highlighted by the Phoebe Prince case.

During his monthly appearance on WTKK-FM, Patrick said Friday it was "incredibly upsetting" to him "that the adults did not seem to have acted like adults."

He didn’t distinguish between school administrators who allegedly were told about the South Hadley high schooler’s problem, or the parents of the six schoolmates charged with bullying her. The 15-year-old committed suicide in January after one day that was described as especially rough.

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