Was Phoebe Prince once a bully?

The new world of online cruelty.
Aug. 17 2010 7:37 AM

Was Phoebe Prince Once a Bully?

Did her school in Ireland turn a blind eye to early warnings of her troubles?

Read the rest of Emily Bazelon's  series on cyberbullying

(Continued from Page 2)

Dissatisfied, Gwen's mother wrote to the Irish Department of Education and Science, which sent an inquiry to Villiers. In response, the school finally called a meeting in November with Gwen's mother. But by then, she and her husband had enrolled their daughter in a different school. Phoebe had also left Villiers. When Phoebe's mother explained to the South Hadley police the cutting that precipitated Phoebe's exit from the school, she named two girls who Phoebe had told her "were at her every night." One of them was her former ally, Heather—another reminder of how quickly teenage roles and allegiances can shift.

Though her daughter was no longer a student, Gwen's mother attended the November meeting at Villiers out of concern about the school's handling of the bullying and its policies. At the meeting, she said a school official read aloud a copy of a letter Phoebe had written, in which she apologized for bringing Villiers into disrepute. "The only kid whose parents told her to apologize was Phoebe Prince," Gwen's mother said. "That's really important. She was the kid who stood up and said, I did something wrong." Gwen's mother says she expressed concern about Phoebe at the meeting. "I sat in front of the board of governors at Villiers and the principal and vice principal and I said, This child has mental health difficulties. She is at risk. I'm not just trying to make a noise about this because my child is a victim of her bullying. I'm saying this because we won't eradicate bullying until we support the bullies and the witnesses." In his statement to me, Hardy said, "the mother never brought anything to the attention of the school about real mental health problems for Phoebe."


When she looks back on all of this, Gwen feels a terrible sense of loss over Phoebe's death. "Every time I think about her being gone, it makes me sad and I'm not angry at her at all," she said, her voice breaking. "When I found out, I was expecting to be really angry and to think, I don't care. But I do care. Because I was really close to her. That's the bit that hurt most, when it all happened. We would have said we were best friends."

For Gwen's mother, the grief is mixed with a sense of missed opportunity. "I utterly empathize with Phoebe's parents," she says. "My whole reason for saying what I've said is not to come down on Phoebe. The point is that Phoebe needed support, and the people who were there at Villiers to give it to her didn't do that. They are culpable, not the kids who are facing criminal charges in South Hadley."

Hardy responded, "Villiers school is entirely satisfied with its efforts, work, and approach to both girls when they were students with us." Perhaps that helps explain the problems Phoebe and Gwen had there.

Like  Slate and Bull-E on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?