April 1st, 2010
08:21 PM ET

Schools chief: Blame for bullying unfair

South Hadley Schools Superintendent Gus Sayer on Thursday defended administrators' handling of the bullying that authorities have blamed for contributing to the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince in January.

"Phoebe was apparently a very private person; she bore a lot without talking to friends or with her parents or with anybody at school," Sayer told CNN.

"She didn't reveal to people what she was being subjected to and, unfortunately, until January 7, we were not aware of what she was being subjected to, so [there was] very little way we could have intervened in the bullying."

Sayer cited two incidents that occurred on January 7. In one, a girl walked into a classroom and called Prince "an Irish slut," he said. The name caller was taken to the principal's office and disciplined, he said.

In the other, a girl "said something threatening about Phoebe" to another girl, he said. A staff member overheard the comment and reported it to the principal, who took disciplinary action, Sayer said.

He said it was school policy not to specify what disciplinary actions may have been taken against any individual student, though he said the latter case did not include expulsion and that the student returned to school.

"To our knowledge the action taken was effective in ending their involvement in any bullying of Phoebe," he said.

Prince, who had recently moved with her family from Ireland to South Hadley, hanged herself on January 14 after enduring what Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth B. Scheibel described to reporters Monday as "a nearly three-month campaign of verbally assaultive behavior and threats of physical harm toward Phoebe, on school grounds, by several South Hadley High School students."

Six students were named in an indictment returned by a grand jury Friday and made public Monday. In addition, Scheibel said three female students received juvenile charges, but she would not clarify if they were among the six named in the indictment.

Read the full CNN.com story

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