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They Called Her an Irish Slut: Phoebe Prince

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More than 3,000 teens kill themselves each year; 250,000 attempt suicide.

More teenagers and young adults die of suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza, and chronic lung disease combined. (See my post "Mean Girls.")

The New York Times has a great front page story today on Phoebe Prince who committed suicide in January after months of torture. New details emerged:

Students said in interviews that they had seen teachers witness bullying incidents or had seen a teacher console Ms. Prince as she wept. On the day she committed suicide in mid-January, she was seen crying in the nurse's office.

Darby O'Brien, a friend of the Prince family, said Thursday that Ms. Prince's parents had told him that they had twice tried to alert the school and protect their daughter. Anne Prince, the mother, told him that in one case she had contacted a school official in November asking "whether this gang of girls was a threat to her daughter," and was told not to worry. The mother said she had contacted the school again in the first week of January as the taunting continued, Mr. O'Brien said.

Ms. Prince arrived at a class late and crying; a teacher tried to console her in the hallway and then left her there,

Susan Smith said that her son had watched as one of the accused bullies screamed insults in Ms. Prince's face in the cafeteria while the teenager tried to ignore it -- and that two teachers saw the verbal assault but did not act.

By all accounts a lively girl, newly arrived at school last fall with an Irish brogue, Ms. Prince soon caught the eye of Sean Mulveyhill, a senior and a football star, they dated.

But Mr. Mulveyhill, 17, also dated Kayla Narey, 17, who like him was a longtime resident and part of a popular clique at the school, according to a friend of the students. He cut ties with Ms. Prince, and Ms. Narey and some of her friends started their campaign against her in October, students said.
Around the same time, other girls started harassing Ms. Prince, students said.

Some girls cursed Ms. Prince when the saw her in the hallways or cafeteria, shouting epithets and sometimes, in the library, whispering them as they went by.

"People were calling her a druggie or a slut, and she immediately got this horribly bad reputation,"

They vilified her on Web sites and sent her text messages calling her a slut and a whore and telling her she deserved to die, according to Ms. Prince's friends.

On the afternoon of her death other students said they saw Ms. Prince going into the nurse's office, crying. A school official confirmed that Ms. Prince had seen the nurse but said he could not comment on the reasons.

School officials said yesterday that they did not know of the problem, but they are in denial and on the wrong side of the issue. Blaming the victim makes life easier for everyone.

American educators operate on the premise of "benign neglect" -- that students have to work out their social problems by themselves and that teachers should not interfere with this childhood "rite of passage."

Kelly Valen has a book, The Twisted Sisterhood coming out that deals with these bullying/relational aggression issues in the context of female relationships. The final straw prompting her to write the book was in fact a friend's niece (a high-school sophomore), who committed suicide last year after Facebook and related abuse by her "girlfriends" at a prominent San Francisco Catholic school.

Unlike Phoebe, this one never even made the papers. It was kept pretty quiet.

write: jfleetwood@aol.com