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School bullying drove girl (15) to take her own life

A young girl took her own life after being tormented by bullies at her school.

The sudden death of Phoebe Prince (15) has now sparked three investigations, including two by police.

The pretty Irish teenager was subjected to verbal and online bullying at the US school where she started just four months ago.

Phoebe only moved to South Hadley, Massachusetts with her family last September and it is believed that she was finding it "difficult to adjust" as a result of the bullying.

"Some students made mean-spirited comments to Phoebe in school and on the way home, but also through texting and social networking web sites," school principal Dan Smith said, in a letter to parents.

"This insidious, harassing behaviour knows no bounds," he added.

Her grieving family from Fanore, Co Clare, today paid tribute to an "exceptional beauty", who was "gifted" with a creative brain and artistic talent.

In a statement they said that her family and friends from both sides of the Atlantic would "grieve the loss of the incandescent enthusiasm of a life blossoming".

They said: "She touched many lives with her Irish mannerisms and sense of humour. Phoebe will forever live in the hearts of her many friends here in America and Ireland."

Phoebe is survived by her mother Anne O'Brien Prince, father Jeremy Prince, sisters Lauren, Tessa and Bridget and brother Simon.

The family is planning a memorial service in Ireland and have set up a scholarship fund in her name.

Dating

School authorities have confirmed that there were "several public incidents at school over the last month" and her classmates have now spoken out the level of bullying to which she was subjected.

One line of inquiry is that she was picked on because she was new at South Hadley High School, while another claims the problem was over a relationship and dating.

She has been described "a wonderful" and "intelligent" girl by friends who are reeling following her suspected overdose on January 14. Friend Katie Broderick said: "A lot of people would taunt and tease her and call her names."

Principal Smith said the school has been "deeply saddened" by the death.

"Phoebe was a smart, charming, and as is the case with many teenagers, complicated young person who truly valued her close friends and her family. We will never know the specific reasons why she chose to take her life. However, both local and state police investigations are looking into the role that bullying may have played in her decision," he said.

A vigil involving 200 students has been held at the school and counsellors have been meeting with students.

Mr Smith says that as a result of Phoebe's tragic death a number of current students and graduates have been "reporting how they were bullied in the past and the effect it had on them".

South Hadley Police Department detectives are working with investigators from the Northwestern District Attorney's Office to determine if bullying was involved.

The state's medical office is understood to have carried out a toxicology tests to determine if a drugs overdose was the cause of death.

Along with the local and State police inquiries, the school is conducting its own investigation and Mr Smith said: "Perhaps one of the three investigations will show that Phoebe was demeaned by other people because she was a new student in the school or because she was smart and charming."

Intervened

In a letter to all parents, the principal explained: "Phoebe had a number of close friends at South Hadley High and was well-liked by many others. It is also true that there were several public disagreements between Phoebe and other students in the weeks leading up to her death.

"These disagreements centred on relationship/dating issues, a rather common event among high school students. School personnel immediately intervened in those disagreements and both counselled and provided consequences as the situations required."

kdoyle@herald.ie


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