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Friday 15 December 2017

Tragic Phoebe's dad urges schools to expose serial student bullying

Phoebe Prince: suicide
Phoebe Prince: suicide

Edel O'Connell and Katherine Donnelly

THE father of tragic schoolgirl Phoebe Prince says teachers should log every incident of bullying they witness in a bid to expose serial aggressors and identify their victims.

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Jeremy Prince said his family is attempting to move on from Phoebe's suicide last year following a brutal campaign of bullying at the hands of several classmates.

The grieving father said one of the ways he copes with the loss of his daughter is by throwing himself into "gruelling, physical work". And he is backing a campaign to combat bullying in Irish schools.

Fifteen-year-old Phoebe died by suicide in January 2010 following bullying by classmates at South Hadley High school in Massachusetts, shortly after she moved to the US with her mother. Five students have since been sentenced to community service or probation.

Mr Prince lives near Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare.

Phoebe's mother, Anne O'Brien, a schoolteacher, returned to Ireland with her daughter's ashes when the trial ended earlier this year.

Mr Prince is backing the newly formed National Anti Bullying Coalition (NABC), a group including parents, students and teachers.

The NABC wants Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to introduce strengthened procedures that would lead to schools being awarded a Safe School flag.

Mr Prince said a range of relatively simple things could be implemented to tackle bullying by students in schools.

"Using a computer in the staffroom, teachers who witness incidents of aggression could type the aggressor and the victims' names into a computer program which uses analysis software," he said.

"This would show up the names of repeat victims and also show up the names of serial aggressors. At this point the parents should be called in.

"One of the problems with schools is parents always go on the defensive and say things like: 'My little angel would never do something like that' but if you had that log saying these are the witnesses and these are the dates and this is what happened it would completely eradicate that problem," he added.

Mr Prince said he finds it difficult to discuss what happened to his daughter as he wants to protect his youngest daughter from further pain and trauma.

Phoebe's 12-year-old sister discovered her body in the immediate aftermath of her suicide by hanging.

Mr Prince said the family continues to receive hundreds of letters from all over the world from people who have been affected by bullying.

Irish Independent

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