April 15th, 2010
05:18 PM ET

Head of school district hit by bullying suicide to step down

The chairman of the school district where a bullied student committed suicide told an agitated crowd Wednesday night that he would be stepping down from his position.

South Hadley School Committee Chairman Edward J. Boiselle made the announcement in the same library where prosecutors say 15-year-old freshmen Phoebe Prince was tormented by bullies hours before she took her life.

Prince hanged herself in the stairwell of her family's apartment in South Hadley, Massachusetts, on January 14, following weeks of taunting by classmates, authorities say. The day before she died, she told a friend: "School has been close to intolerable lately," a court document shows.

The audience at the meeting was larger than usual and divided in its support for the administration. Some angrily called for resignations and others clapped as a disruptive audience member were removed by police.

South Hadley Superintendent Gus Sayer told CNN that administrators requested police presence at the meeting after a local radio station called for critics of the committee to attend.

Boiselle said he would have stepped down regardless of the controversy surrounding Prince's death.

"I've always felt that the chairmanship should rotate every year," he said. Committee member JoAnn Jordan was elected to the chairmanship after Boiselle stepped down. He will remain a member of the committee.

Boiselle also expressed support for Sayer and said that he saw no factual evidence at this point that would warrant the removal of any teachers or administrators from South Hadley High School.

Investigators from the Northwestern Massachusetts District Attorney's Office found nothing criminal in the actions of adults at the school but did remark that some actions, or inactions, were troublesome.

Sayer told CNN that the committee had yet to meet with investigators but hoped to do so as soon as possible.

"If we learn from here that things should have been done differently," Sayer said, "We will hold staff members accountable."

The state has charged four teenage girls from Prince's school with civil rights violations resulting in bodily injury, criminal harassment and disturbing a school assembly. Two are also charged with stalking, and one other is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.

Two boys, also teenagers, have been charged with statutory rape, violation of civil rights with resulting bodily injury, criminal harassment and disturbance of a school assembly.

- By CNN's Cassie Spodak

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Filed under: Education • Justice • U.S.
soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. asallways

    How sad that we live in a time where we are numb to anyone's pain. The teachers,principal and students who knew this went on, turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to it, have we no empathy for anyone anymore? Was it fear that they would be the next to be tormented, or did the teachers think it was horseplay,joking around, It's amazing how the bullying was allowed to go on,that no one had the guts to stand up and say stop that's enough.And the sad part is, this story will die down and be forgotten,and later there will be another one to replace it because kids will be kids and sometimes they can be unforgiving ,hateful and cruel.

    April 16, 2010 at 2:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. beard

    Are blacks the only ones that can invoke the hate crime law? It is my understanding that this poor girl was being called an Irish slut.

    April 16, 2010 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  3. Gil

    Why isn't anyone charged with murder? Those so called "teens" are responsible for that sweet girls death. lock the monsters up and throw away the keys! And lock the parents up with some hardened criminals so can get a taste bullying first hand. And the teachers and administrators, my goodness, what a bunch of morons.

    April 16, 2010 at 3:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. commonsense

    We do not live in a perfect world, we cannot stop bullying. Im not saying we shouldnt try, but no matter what we do it is going to be there, and you can't fire everyone who was in the path that could have done something but didnt. People find it so easy to point the finger as if they are an expert in why this happened. How do you know what kind of parents the bullies had? You dont, for all you know these parents were better parents than you, for all you know these were the best parents in the world. You know why bullying is less in the workforce than it is at a highschool? Because they are just kids, they have'nt learned from their mistakes yet. You want to put these kids in jail? Are you the same person you were in highschool? When is the last time you said something that was less than nice about someone, because of their weight, thier race, religion, political views, sexual preference, the way they talked, the way they dressed, their intelligence level, because you didnt agree with their actions? Im willing to bet every single one of you has bullied at least one person in your life. Lucky for you they didnt kill themselves. Do you think these bullies are not going live the rest of their lives thinking about what their actions caused this poor girl to do? Why is it so important for you to have someone to blame and punish? Everyone can feel sorrow, and learn from this tragedy. Teach your children to be kind, lead them through example, and also teach them that this world is full of jerks and teach them how to cope with it, because there is no avoiding that. I feel extremely sorry for this girl and for her family and also everyone else involved, including the bullies and their families. Teach love not hate. Read back on these posts that are so anti-bullying and notice how many of them are full of hate.

    April 16, 2010 at 3:35 am | Report abuse |
  5. Aloha

    By their fruits you will know them. Bulling, guns, drugs etc___ Are these by products of our schools? I wonder what is taught (not good manners & good conduct) in our schools. I wonder what the future holds for our country, if these prevails unchecked & uncorrected? EDUCATORS, do your job..The youth is the future of our country_shape & fine ture the youth if you love this country...again By THEIR FRUITS YOU WILL KNOW THEM....Mahalo.

    April 16, 2010 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dave Le

    They murdered her, you don't need to physically attack someone to kill them, they mentally killed her in the inside.

    April 16, 2010 at 4:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. Totoro0101

    Yeah, here's the thing. You are forced by the full force of the law and civil authorities to attend school. In cases like this, that boils down to being forced to endure abuse and not being ALLOWED to defend yourself by removing yourself from dangerous and abusive situations. The teachers don't care (despite all the hullabaloo about how much teachers, CARE...). If a kid is forced to be somewhere, you had damned sight better start ensuring their safety and heads should roll when that breaks down.

    April 16, 2010 at 5:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. Conserned

    I know a lot of people are not going to like what I have to say but I am the mother of two teenage children, I would not want either of them to be bulled and have had to deal with a couple of situations with my son. In my opinion this girl had other issues. Think about when you were in school. Kids are mean and bullying does go on. There is nothing anyone will be able to do to stop it. I never once growing up heard of a child killing themselves over being bullied. I feel for the poor parents of this beautiful girl that killed herself and for the fact that the girl did not feel that she had any other way out but to kill herself but should these children be held criminally responsible for her death?? Like I said, she must have had other issues to make her feel so bad to do this. I do not believe anyone would kill themselves over what others are saying. I am sure it may have contributed to how she was feeling but you can not lay all this in these children's laps. I feel the children involved should be punished for their actions, I am not condoning what they did but at the same time I would not want my kid being charged like these kids are just for calling a girl names no matter how bad the names were. Sticks and Stones right??

    April 16, 2010 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jen

    My heart absolutely goes out to Phoebe and her family. Those children who bullied her certainly do need to be held accountable. They are old enough the difference between right and wrong, they probably wouldn't put up with being bullied themselves (especially for such a lenghthy period). When I was growing up my mother always told me "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". People are entitled to their own personal opinions, but to blatantly and openly attack and criticize verbally and physically in front of witnesses garners punishment. Regardless if this girl had other "problems"...she was a teenager, what teenage girl doesn't have "problems"?! This poor soul moved half across the continent for a better life, not a bullied life. I know I never told my parents about 3/4 of the bullying I endured...sometimes it just makes it worse when the parents go to the schools and complain. Each and every teacher and school official that witnessed or was privy to any form of attack against that child should be accountable as well. I hope and pray justice in every form is served up here and all parties involved reap what has been sown!

    April 16, 2010 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. have confidence

    I agree with Conserned...

    I see two points of view here...... this poor child was taught to care about what others think of her even if it is detrimental to her well being. The children that were being "the bullies" have their own set of issues that should be addressed, however, it is not thier fault she decided to take her own life. Why are we blaming them for her choice???? Isnt this the problem in the whole world??? Blame others for your choices????? Since when do words hold so much value?? My question is why this girl thought she had to take her life to feel relief?? What was going on at home? What is going on at these "bully kids" homes???

    If you were a bully, would you pick on another person who blows you off??? Who doesnt give a shit what you think??? If you are confident in who you are and were doing things in your own life that brought you happiness, this would not happen. These are the lessons that school should teach since parents dont seem to be able to enstow confidence and self respect in their own children!

    I have had alot of experience with bullies since I used to be teased alot as a child. I stood up for myself. I did not let those bullies into my mind. That was my choice.... and a darned good one if you ask me! And guess what, they stopped teasing me because they could not shake down my self respect.... so they had to end up respecting me! No one should have to deal with being harassed, but, you cant hold others responsible for having bad manners, you can not blame others for your bad decisions, you can not control other's behaviors and it isnt anyone elses fault that you dont like yourself!

    I say this out of anger –that this girl felt SO powerless that she had to end her beautiful life. That makes me angrier than any words a bully could say.

    April 16, 2010 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  11. Sarcastic

    I agree 100 percent with have confidence, the issue isnt the blame game people. We can blame all day who's fault it is, it isnt going to bring that poor girl back.

    April 16, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  12. Elizabeth

    I will never forget my 1st grade teacher explaining what bullying meant and telling our class we had a moral obligation to stand up for those around us falling victims to bullying (although she didn't exactly use the words "moral obligation"). I went through elementary school with a girl who had Aspergers Syndrome and was constantly made fun of for her condition and for being adopted.. along with ridiculous petty things as simple as not being able to hold a pencil correctly and having to use the computer for spelling tests (of course this was back when each classroom only had one computer everyone played number munchers or Oregon Trail on) or not being able to color inside of the lines. I was always the one to stand up for the poor girl and encourage her. Years later after she had moved away, I randomly ran into her mother. She recognized me, grabbed my hand, and sincerely thanked me for sticking up for her daughter when everyone else was horrible to her. I can't tell you how amazing it made me feel to know that I genuinely made a difference in this girls life. I thank God that I was given the opportunity to be a positive person in her life and I truly hope that people start divorcing themselves of their close minded, judgemental, disgusting ways of treating those different than them and realize we have one unifying factor no matter what syndrome or sickness or background we come from: We are all human beings.

    July 28, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
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