Bullied to Death: Phoebe, Barbara, Darby

The Tragedy of Phoebe Prince

District Attorney Elizabeth Schiebel announced that nine students have been indicted in what is described as a months-long campaign of bullying that allegedly led to 15-year-old Phoebe Prince's death. Reports say the teen, who recently relocated to Massachusetts from Ireland, was subjected to an especially torturous day of verbal harassment and physical abuse in front of students and faculty at South Hadley High School before she hanged herself in the stairwell of her home. Prosecutors say the harassment of Phoebe was common knowledge among students who, along with some teachers and Phoebe's mom, had brought it to the attention of school officials.

In a news interview, South Hadley School Superintendent Gus Sayer says Phoebe's bullying was not widely known by his staff.

Sadly, the harassment of Phoebe didn't stop after her death. There was even a Facebook page titled We Murdered Phoebe Prince, where disturbing comments continued to mock the teenager. Even friends of Phoebe wanted to speak on her behalf, but were too afraid to do so because of the backlash from the bullies.

Educator and author of The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander, Barbara Coloroso, joins Dr. Phil.

Hear about Barbara's visits to Phoebe's school and what concerns her.

 

[AD]Barbara clarifies that some teachers did report the bullying of Phoebe. "They did what they were supposed to do. Many of those teachers are deeply caring," she says. "Bullying does happen under the radar, but I've got to tell you, once it's happened, and I know about it, parents ought to know about it, and something visible needs to happen to that child. I promise you, Dr. Phil, had it been stopped right away, two things for sure: One kid would not be dead, and nine kids would not be facing criminal charges, because it didn't start criminally."

Joining via satellite is Prince Family spokesperson Darby O'Brien. "Tell me how the family doing at this point, Darby," Dr. Phil says.

Darby says the hardest thing for them is that the superintendent of Phoebe's school, Gus Sayer, has been saying in interviews that perhaps bullying had nothing to do with Phoebe's suicide and that if it did, family members never brought it to the school's attention. He says Phoebe's mother spoke to the school about it on more than one occasion, including the week before her death. "So, the thing that's really disturbing today is you've got a superintendent who's saying that Phoebe Prince attempted to commit suicide before, which is not true. Now, he's blaming the victim. That's probably the hardest thing to hear," Darby says.

Dr. Phil plays a clip from Superintendent Sayer's interview with news personnel about Phoebe's bullying: "According to our investigation, what we've been able to find out, it was not widely known by our staff," Sayer tells a reporter.

The reporter asks him, "Do you feel you should resign?"

"Can you tell me a reason why?" Sayer asks in return.

[AD]Dr. Phil asks Darby, "Do you think there's a reason this man should be held accountable for what has not been done here?"

"Absolutely," Darby says. "I think that after the district attorney came down with the charges that she did with these kids, which is probably stronger than any against students involved in any bullying anywhere in the country, he just doesn't respond. He counters the D.A., says it didn't happen, it was all done in one week and just didn't address it."

In another interview clip, Superintendent Sayer says, "We did not have any knowledge of this bullying. How we might have intervened not knowing that is very problematical for us to understand."

Dr. Phil is shocked by Sayer's claim. "How can he say that? This went on for three months." He brings up Darby's claim that Phoebe was observed arriving late to school and crying throughout entire classes.

"A lot of people heard this. A lot of people knew this. There was a teacher who had reported this to the main office six weeks out," Darby says. "He had seen two girls bullying Phoebe in the corner, standing afterward, crying, and he called it into the office. I mean, they knew. What they really tried to do is they tried to sweep it under the rug."

Dr. Phil plays another clip from Superintendent Sayer's interview: "There are many ways we might have found out. Phoebe was apparently a quite private person who bore her problems herself and didn't disclose them to others in a way that we would've found out about them. Her parents, her mother, did not let us know that Phoebe was being bullied."

A reporter interrupts and says, "Let me stop you right there. The D.A. actually said that she did report that."

"Yeah. We can't confirm that," Sayer says.

[AD]Darby explains that he met with Sayer and the chairman of the school committee on President's Day and confronted them about being informed by Prince family members of what was happening to Phoebe long before the week she died. "So, it's a lie," he says. "When a mother calls in early November and asks a school official, ‘Is my daughter safe from that gang of girls tormenting her?' it's pretty clear what's going on here. The charges against the kids are really strong. Who's going to hold the adults responsible? They were the ones all along with all kinds of signals. They could've stepped in and stopped this. They just didn't do it."

See Dr. Phil's strong message about bystanders.

Dr. Phil reviews the alleged bullies of Phoebe Prince and what they are being charged with:

  • Sean Mulveyhill, 17: Statutory rape, violation of civil rights, criminal harassment (with bodily injury resulting), criminal harassment, disturbance of a school assembly
  • Kayla Narey, 17: Violation of civil rights (with bodily injury resulting), criminal harassment, disturbance of a school assembly
  • Austin Renaud, 18: Statutory rape
  • Ashley, Longe, 16: Violation of civil rights (with bodily injury resulting)
  • Flannery Mullins, 16: Violation of civil rights (with bodily injury resulting), stalking
  • Sharon Chanon Velazquez, 16: Violation of civil rights (with bodily injury resulting), stalking
  • Three other girls face delinquency charges; names have not been released

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