In Massachusetts, 15 year old Phoebe Prince killed herself after months of harassment and bullying. It's a heartbreaking tale. And one that repeats itself with alarming regularity.
It's hard to understand what goes on in the minds of kids who prey on others, but I know a little bit how the victim feels. When I was in middle school, I was bullied.
For no reason I ever discovered, two girls I thought were my friends suddenly turned on me. We didn't have the internet back then, so there were no harassing emails or nasty posts on Facebook. But they were inventive note writers and drew cruel caricatures of me (I was an early bloomer and not very happy about the changes in my body anyway.)
My gut churned everytime I found another note on my desk or jammed into my locker. They weren't happy unless they reduced me to tears.
One day, a teacher found a note and turned it over to the principal. The three of us were called to the office and the girls were forced to apologize to me--an exercise in futility. We all knew they didn't mean it.
The notes stopped, but I never learned why they began in the first place. Though my experience was tame compared with the bullying others have suffered, the taunting and shame changed me. I made fewer friends after that. I pulled inward a bit. It was hard to trust other girls. How could I be sure a new friend wouldn't turn on me too?
In my case, I have to give the teacher and principal high marks for dealing quickly and decisively with my bullies. According to news reports, the high school in Hadley MA did nothing to protect Phoebe. Granted, they can't control what kids do on the internet unless they access it from school property, but if there was bullying on campus, something should have been done to make school a safe place for Phoebe Prince.
What do you think? Have you been bullied? Do you think school officials should be held accountable if they know about bullying and do nothing?