Check out my most recent news articles in this week’s Daily Wildcat:
Also, be sure to read my opinions column on the suicide of Phoebe Prince.
Unfortunately, my column was heavily edited by copy, which I’ll admit that I did not appreciate because the original was much punchier, spiteful, and, well, opinionated. I have posted the unedited version on this blog because I truly believe the watered down version does not do my column, or Phoebe Prince, any proper justice. So, here is my column as it was, as I believe it should have run:
What exactly do school bullies intend to achieve? Perhaps a veteran harasser or mean girl can help me out here, or at least answer this question: Do bullies actually want that their victims will commit suicide?
It seems like a dramatic question to ask, but it’s perfectly valid these days, especially considering the Phoebe Prince case. Prince, who’d recently moved from Ireland to western Massachusetts, took her own life after being cyber bullied and relentlessly teased at South Hadley High School. In addition to enduring harassment at school, 15-year-old Prince was tormented via text message, cell phone, and Facebook. The Boston Herald reported in a Jan. 26 article that Prince had been menaced by “a foul-mouthed teenage girl who was among teens who bullied her constantly…and told Prince to ‘go kill yourself.'”
Imagine the lifelong guilt that a normal, compassionate person would feel upon learning that someone actually committed suicide after being instructed to do so.
Then again, this particular mean girl was more than likely a full blown sociopath, or at least someone with absolutely no soul or respect for human life, so why would she regret her fateful orders? Is she happy that Prince was driven to self destruction?
Even in death, Prince is still haunted by high school demons. Many of her harassers mocked Prince on her Facebook memorial page and returned to school as if nothing had happened. According to the Boston Globe, the mean girls “told State Police detectives they did nothing wrong, had nothing to do with Phoebe killing herself.” If these kids can’t learn from suicide, there’s really no hope for their personal development or acquisition of compassion.
A lot of commentators are unsatisfied with the way that Prince was treated, and it’s easy to assume that her death was solely a result of harassment. There is, however, a real possibility that there was something else going on in Prince’s life. Most people will be picked on at some point in life, and some children unfortunately have to deal with more harassment than the lucky ones who are inexplicably left alone. The reality is that not all of these victims hurt themselves or others simply because of school bullying. There must have been further internal suffering than Prince’s friends or family members will ever know the full extent of, and the high school teasing just led to her ultimate breaking point.
With that in mind, it’s important for bullied teens and preteens to speak up when they are being harassed in school. Most schools have counseling resources, and students can always approach a teacher or principal if harassment persists.
One has to wonder if Prince had mentioned any of the teasing incidents to the South Hadley High administration. Was she a sufferer in silence? Prince’s close friend, who remained anonymous, told CBS that Prince hid her pain. It’s likely that she expected the teasing to subside, or she just decided to tough out the hard times.
Regardless, where were all the observant adults? Even if Prince wasn’t vocal about her harassment, her teachers were probably aware that it was going on since Prince was often terrorized in school. The Boston Herald also reported that Prince was seen running out of her algebra classroom in tears. Where was her algebra teacher during all this? A responsible instructor would have followed Prince out the door or at least have phoned the school counselor to handle the situation. It’s rather hard to believe that Prince’s teachers didn’t know about Prince’s unhappiness, or at least her standing with the mean girls.
At the end of the day, Prince is still deceased, and her harassers will probably never fully understand the damage they have done. In a day and age where cyber bullying is sparking more and more suicides, schools need to take bigger steps to preventing harassment. Disciplinary action should be enforced, and students should face expulsion and suspension when constantly picking on a particular individual. Call it extreme and harsh, but what could be worse than a young girl hanging from a rope?