August 23, 2017
On January 14, 2010, Phoebe Prince committed suicide. Her death spurred an anti-harassment law by Massachusetts state legislators.
Her suicide followed weeks of bullying by classmates and drew international awareness to America’s problem of school bullying.
Born in Bedford, England on November 24, 1994, she moved with her parents to the ocean front village of Fanore in County Clare, Ireland at age two. In the fall of 2009, she immigrated to America. Her mother and siblings traveled with her while her father stayed in nearby Lisdoonvarna.
Almost from the first day of school, Phoebe was taunted and bullied for several weeks by adolescents at South Hadley High School. According to family members, Prince had always been susceptible to peer pressure and bullying. Investigations revealed that Prince was one of four girls bullying a classmate.
On the day she died, three teenagers engaged Prince with persistent taunting and harassment in the school library and auditorium. One followed Prince home after school and threw an empty can at Prince while yelling insults.
Phoebe went inside her home and hung herself from the banister which to the house’s second floor. Her twelve-year-old sister found her body.
The school authorities called for a meeting to discuss bullying in the school. Numerous parents attended and said that their kids had been bullied as well, but their complaints fell on deaf ears as the school administration ignored the problem.
Bullying Aimed At Illegal Immigrants Increases
Arkady Bukh of Bukh Global advises that Spanish-speaking parents claim their children are facing increased bullying at school since Alabama’s crackdown on illegal immigration went into effect. Most blame the name-calling on the law’s fallout which has been covered in the news, debated in the classroom and discussed around dinner tables.
“We’re hearing reports that bullying is increasing,” said Tomas Perez, director of the state’s civil rights division.
The Justice Department has established a bilingual hotline and secure email account so residents may report any violence or threats based on ethnic backgrounds.
While Alabama’s Department of Education claims not to have received any reports of bullying, federal officials believe some parents — especially illegal immigrants — are not reporting bullying to school faculty as they fear contact with government officials.
Hector Conde, a machine shop manager in Montgomery said his family had felt the problem first hand. Conde was shocked when his twelve-year-old daughter told him a classmate called her a “damn Mexican” on the school bus ride home.
“She’s a citizen,” said Conde. “She doesn’t even speak Spanish.”
The taunts extend to the adult world. Steve Dubinsky found his email account filled with insults and critical messages when negative reviews were posted about his restaurant following a talk show mistakenly claiming Dubrinsky employed illegal immigrants in suburban Birmingham.
Dubrinsky’s spouse is a legal immigrant from Mexico, and all nine of his workers have proper papers. Dubrinsky still worries about his business’ future
“I’ve never experienced this before. Those reviews were just out to get me.”
Resolution In Phoebe’s Case
In May 2011, the case found resolution. Agreeing to plead guilty, five of the defendants were placed on probation, and several were sentenced to community service as well.
Phoebe’s mom, Anne O’Brien, settled with South Hadley in October 2010.