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Thursday, July 22, 2010

phoebe prince

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Phoebe Prince Suicide: New Report Investigates Bullying Classmates


The tragic suicide of 15 year old Phoebe Prince was one of the events that brought cyber bullying in high schools into a hot button issue.  Six kids from her high school are being charged with serious criminal offenses in relationship to her suicide, which most of the press, and the DA in South Hadley, Massachusetts, hold them and their bullying responsible for.

But, Emily Bazelon of Slate.com, and investigative reporter who has been  reporting on the case since the suicide in January, has come to question exactly how fair it is that to the five accused students that they’ve become, as Bazelon puts it, “international symbols of callow teenage evil.”  After extensive investigation, Bazelon has come to believe that, while some of the kids may have been cruel to Phoebe, not all of them were and that, in Bazelon’s estimation, it would have been almost impossible for the defendants to anticipate their actions leading to Phoebe’s death.  And while that cruelty was wrong and needed to be stopped, it wasn’t necessarily the sole cause of her suicide.  As she puts it:
“I’ve wrestled with how much of this information to publish. Phoebe’s family has suffered terribly. But when the D.A. charged kids with causing Phoebe’s death and threatened them with prison, she invited an inquiry into other potential causes. The whole story is a lot more complicated than anyone has publicly allowed for. The events that led to Phoebe’s death show how hard it is for kids, parents, and schools to cope with bullying, especially when the victim is psychologically vulnerable. The charges against the students show how strong the impulse is to point fingers after a suicide, how hard it is to assess blame fairly, and how ill-suited police and prosecutors can be to punishing bullies.”
Cyber bullying is indeed a dangerous problem that needs to be confronted.  But Bazelon’s story is a good reminder that vilifying the children who are being caught up in the problem on the bullies end of the spectrum isn’t necessarily the solution.  These kids should face consequences, but they need help, not hatred.  And, if Bazelon is right, some of these kid’s lives are being ruined out of the simple drive to place blame for a frighteningly unpredictable and uncontrollable tragedy on someone, not because they were even active participants in the problem.  Let’s hope her work can help bring justice to this sad case, and keep six other lives from being ruined.
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Phoebe Prince Suicide: New Report Investigates Bullying Classmates

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