You know things have gotten bad when prosecutors start prosecuting teens — some on felony charges that could result in significant jail time — because of bullying. Yes, bullying.
Most of us have experienced bullying at one point in our lives, or know someone who has been bullied. Of course for most, the bullying didn’t result in lifelong scars. Part of that is because the extremes of bullying were not really known 20 or 30 years ago. You couldn’t bully someone 24/7 through Facebook, Twitter, email and forums devoted entirely to making other people’s lives miserable (yes, such online communities exist).
So nowadays sometimes bullying is taken to an extreme. Not by one or two teens or kids, but by a whole gang of them.
In central Massachusetts, it led Phoebe Prince — a 15-year-old Irish immigrant — to hang herself. And now 9 teens have been indicted on charges related to her humiliation and threats. Threats that ultimately led to her death.
The details of the case are disturbing … Not just for the behavior of the teenagers involved, but also in the negligence of school officials and teachers who failed to do anything about it:
It was particularly alarming, the district attorney said, that some teachers, administrators and other staff members at the school were aware of the harassment but did not stop it. “The actions or inactions of some adults at the school were troublesome,” she said, but would not lead to criminal charges.
Ms. Prince had recently moved to the United States from Ireland when she started at South Hadley High School as a freshman last fall. The taunting started when she had a brief relationship with a senior boy; some students reportedly called her an “Irish slut,” knocked books out of her hands and sent her threatening text messages.
On the day of her death, the investigation found, students abused her in the school library, in the lunchroom and the hallways and threw a canned drink at her as she walked home.
So while I believe the response — although perhaps extreme — is the right one, it also doesn’t address the school’s negligence in stopping this inappropriate behavior from occurring over and over again in a single day.
There may not be a single “right” response to such bullying. But hopefully what this indictment shows is that if you want to bully someone as a teen, and then they go and do something extreme, you may find yourself being held accountable. And not just to juvenile crimes (which typically have lesser and less severe sentences), but to adult crimes as well.
It’s a hard way to learn that life is unfair. But you make what you want for yourself and out of your life. And if you want to feel the power associated with bullying, be prepared to enjoy the prison time that comes along with it. Crimes are crimes and driving a person to death by relentless threats and harassment is nothing to be proud of.
Read the full article: 9 Teenagers Are Accused of Bullying That Led to Suicide
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Apr 2010
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Grohol, J. (2010). Teenage Bullying Leads to 9 Indictments. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 9, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/03/29/teenage-bullying-leads-to-9-indictments/