Journalism in the Public Interest

Slate Takes a Closer Look at the Tragedy of a Bullied Teenager

The suicide of Phoebe Prince was one of those events that set off shock waves in popular culture. Prince, a new student at a Massachusetts high school, killed herself after being viciously taunted in person and on Facebook by a posse of Mean Girls. Long before the facts were clear, the case sparked a torrent of commentary and analysis about the cyber-bullying, the cruelty of teenage girls, and the question of who should be held accountable for the tragedy. A few months later, the district attorney, Elizabeth Scheibel, filed criminal charges against six students.

Slate’s Emily Bazelon has pushed beyond the headlines, and her fascinating three-part series demonstrates how little we learn from initial reports on such cases. Bazelon’s stories raise serious questions about whether prosecution is the appropriate response to what happened.

Two of my step granddaughters went to school with Phoebe and were badly shaken when she hanged herself.

I realize it’s hard to raise children and keep a roof over their heads, feed and clothed them, but if we can’t teach our children to be decent to others we have no business having children.

Helen A. Spalding

July 26, 2010, 6:09 p.m.

In the years since I first started teaching, back in the dark ages, children have become more and more callous, not only in their response to one another, but in their response to the world in general.  There are many places to lay blame, from violent “first person shooter” video games to poor parenting.  Children need to be taught that other humans feel all the same emotions as they do.  Just asking a child “how would you feel if someone did that to you?” can yield some astonishing responses.  We must help our young people, and many of our older people, to consider the affect of their actions.  Sounds easy.  It’s anything but.  We must begin by examining our own actions, and how we treat our children, friends, neighbors, and strangers.  We can’t change the world, but we can change ourselves.

Apparently a school teacher replied to my post, although I can’t seem to find it. I did seen in my inbox what this teacher posted.

I am as hard on teachers as I am with parents. Most of them seem to look the other way when they know that a child is being picked on. Some have gone as far as to laugh over it. Possibly believing the attacked child deserved it.

It’s because of parents and teachers who don’t take some effort to talk to their classes from kindergarten until 12th grade, that we had shootings in some of our schools.

Had someone taken the time to explain to their classroom that we should not pick on others and to be kind instead some of these tragedies might not have happened.

I may ruffle a few feathers, but instead of getting defensive, try talking with them, and explaining that just because someone is different, or prettier, or plainer, or is slower, or handicapped or talks different, they may save a life or more.

It doesn’t take that much time to put in an effort.

Though Phoebe’s experience would have been enough to send anyone over the edge, suicide is act resulting from severe and chronic depression. Arguably, Phoebe’s response to the escalating vigilantism of those intransigent Mean Girls might have been the last straw but it wasn’t the only one.

It’s so easy to stand in judgment of others when they do something that goes against what most of us believe, but until you have emotional problems as bad as what she had, stop judging.

Bullied GIrl

Sep. 25, 2011, 11 p.m.

It seems that once a person becomes an adult, on average, they forget what it was like to be a child.  Take a child that was beaten and afraid at home and then grows up to beat and terrorize their child.

We need the Adults to wake up and help the youth put a stop to bullying.

Bulled Girl

Commenting is not available in this section entry.
This article is part of a series:

A Closer Look

A column by ProPublica's editors.

Get Updates

Our Hottest Stories