Phoebe Prince’s Suicide
I haven’t written anything about Phoebe Prince’s suicide. It’s a terrible tragedy and I just didn’t know what to say. I still don’t. You want to say something that will make it not have happened. But you can’t.
Phoebe, who had moved here from Ireland last year with her family, was in her first year at South Hadley High School. In addition to the stress of adjusting to a new country and a new school, she was mercilessly and relentlessly bullied by nine other students. They harassed her at school and on Facebook, assaulted her physically, and spread hateful rumors about her. On January 14, they finally pushed her over the edge.
The best we can hope is that Phoebe is now in a better, kinder, more loving world. But that’s small comfort to her family and friends. Nor is it a comfort to her school or to South Hadley, which must bear the shame and remorse of having failed to help her in her anguish.
Nor is it a comfort to anyone who looks at her photo and sees a smiling, eager young woman, full of hope and potential, with a joyful life ahead of her. All of that was assassinated by pointless, stupid cruelty.
Now, we’ll never know what Phoebe would have done or become. Maybe the best thing we can do is try to learn from the tragedy.
Almost all of us are capable of cruelty. High school students often lack empathy and don’t give enough thought to the possible results of their actions. Those are facts about human nature that we can’t change.
But what can we do?
There are several things that might have helped Phoebe:
- School officials must take bullying seriously.
- They must stay alert for bullying and punish it when it occurs.
- They must require bullies to get counseling or therapy to help them stop.
- They must monitor known bullies and, if needed, separate them from other students.
- They must educate students about how evil bullying is.
- They must promote a culture that despises bullying as many people despise smoking.
- They must promote and show compassion, empathy, and understanding.
We can’t eliminate bullying completely. But we can at least make sure that it’s punished and that it’s considered shameful.
May God bless you, Phoebe, and wash away your suffering.
Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.
"Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door."
-- Emily Dickinson
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