Cyberbullies Charged With Harassing Phoebe Prince, Teen Who Killed Herself After Rape
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Nine teens have been charged in the "unrelenting" bullying of a teenage girl from Ireland who killed herself after being raped and enduring months of torment by classmates in person and online, a prosecutor said Monday.
Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel said 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley was stalked and harassed nearly constantly from September until she killed herself Jan. 14. The freshman had recently moved to western Massachusetts from Ireland.
"The investigation revealed relentless activities directed toward Phoebe to make it impossible for her to stay at school. The bullying for her was intolerable," Scheibel said.
Six teens -- four girls and two boys -- face charges including statutory rape, assault, violation of civil rights resulting in injury, criminal harassment, disturbance of a school assembly and stalking. Three younger girls face delinquency charges.
Scheibel said the harassment began in September. She said school officials knew about the bullying, but none will face criminal charges.
Scheibel refused to discuss the circumstances of the rape charges.
Prince's harassment went beyond school grounds, and the teen reportedly received "taunting text messages and harassing postings on Facebook," the Boston Globe reports.
“The real problem now is the texting stuff and the cyber-bullying,’’ South Hadley School Superintendent Gus A. Sayer told the Boston Globe. “Some kids can be very mean towards one another using that medium.’’ He added, "Apparently the young woman had been subjected to taunting from her classmates, mostly through the Facebook and text messages, but also in person on at least a couple of occasions."
Sayer noted that much of Prince's bullying was "done online or by cellphones," while Scheibel reported that the harassment was "primarily conducted on school grounds during school hours and while school was in session."
Prince's family has moved away from the area and could not immediately be located for comment. Scheibel spoke for them at a news conference to announce the charges.
"The Prince family has asked that the public refrain from vigilantism in favor of allowing the judicial system an opportunity to provide a measure of justice for Phoebe," she said.
Some students accused of participating in the bullying have been disciplined by the school and will not be returning to classes.
Scheibel said the case is still under investigation, and there may be additional charges.
The Massachusetts Legislature cited Prince's death and the apparent suicide of 11-year-old Carl Walker-Hoover of Springfield last year when members passed anti-bullying legislation earlier this month.