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. ourpointcounts

    It stil amazes me that even today with a 16 years young girl who is now dead, that most people are still blaming the victim and holding flags of free speech up for the slime that did this to her. Whether you were bullied or the bully...these kids and I use the term under pressure took Phoebe's rights away, her parents have no daughter to raise any longer, but these poor excuse for parents who raised this scum still have theirs...and I bet they are so proud of their daughters and sons.....NOT!!!

    April 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. baby sing

    my child went through the same thing when she went in the 7th grade and her 'friends' started a club where, to become a member, they had to make my child cry. she had no friends and was being tormented every day. when i saw the change in her, i talked to her, realized what was wrong (bullying) and got her into therapy immediately. i feel so bad for that family or any family that has a child harmed from bullying. i was lucky, i saw the warning signs...not everybody does.

    April 15, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sarcastic

    Looks like the town found someone to blame

    April 15, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Big Bill from Brooklyn

    This story continues to sadden me to no end. I pray for that poor girl and her family. I wish her every peace now, and only wish that she had found relief and safety from her torment in this world. I never knew her, yet feel I failed her. And ask forgiveness for that failure. Sad, sad, sad. I ask God to protect each child on this green earth from the pain and misery she felt. I ask God for his blessings upon us.

    April 15, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bill C

    I was bullied by the school bully when I was a kid. I fought back. He never bullied me after that. As an adult, he has spent most of his life behind bars for rape and assault against women.

    Seriously, in a school, in this day and age we sit back and we know that bullying goes on, yet nothing is done. Isn't it really well past time to get a grip on this rampant behaviour? It's time to educate teachers and students alike, its time to put legislation in place and put a stop to this.

    It's a very poor reflection of us as a society.

    April 15, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. DennisH

    It is time for more than the a school district chairman to resign. I think the school principal is also culpable in this case. It is time to take a hard stand on school bullying. Students are routinely being expelled for knives in 1st aide kits, action figure toy guns but bully's go unchecked. Suspend bully's for 3 days on a 1st offense. The entire school year for a second offense. Make that federa law. IMO that should get a parents attention. The powder puff treatment of bully's must stop.

    April 15, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ciiku

    Bullying is a US American Culture.... it is so deeply woven and engrained in the US American psyche. It is not only in schools but in places of work, politics, economics etc... Just look around you, you'll see it. Why are we so surprised by this incident? It is my prayer that with this tragedy, US Americans can really start to dig deep in their conscious in an attempt to start erradicating the root of bullying -- = prejudice and hate.

    April 15, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ronie Jesch

    This is in response to Gracie. I worked in a government office that allowed bullying, abuse and torment by one of the supervisors as management looked the other way. After retiring I contacted an attorney about filing a case and was told that there was nothing I could do because, I quote,"I was not one of the protected classes". So saying this type of behavior would not happen in an adult workplace is not always true.

    April 15, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kim

    There should never be a "place" where bullying is tolerated. Therefore, we (every single one of us) should always be working on eliminating it. No matter how pervasive and unacceptable the situation is perceived, every level of harassment and bullying must be kept on the radar screen. If there is a school environment where "looking the other way" is a daily routine, then there is a desperate need for work on school climate and everything from behaviors to diversity. If it can happen in one school, it can happen in others. Get beyond the blame and start guiding our children to be more respectful. And don't wait for someone else to do it.

    April 15, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. limo

    I don't think the teachers are trained to really know how to see bullying. This sad incident could have been avoided so easily had the offenders been removed at an early stage. Now that it has reached a point that someone committed suicide, the offenders must be dealt with severly. They knowlingly drove this young lady over the edge, and should pay the maximun penalty for their actions. The teachers and administration that apparently "looked the other way" when they had the opportunity to prevent it, should lose their jobs and have a permanent record placed in their files to remind any prospective employers of their stupidity.

    April 15, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DaAdjunct

    It is obvious that our grade schools and high schools have become a dysfunctional environment. The students are out of control, the students are forced into college directed curiculums, vocations are thought to be unacceptable, and the teachers are often not supported by the Administrators. We need to evaluate students (aptitude and interest) in the 8th grade, and provide vocational training (Automotive repair, computer repair, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, etc etc etc.). All of these vocations are well paid. I would bet that the high school dropout rate would greatily diminish.

    What would I do with bullies? I think that the folks in Souteast Asia may have it right. They use the cane on young law breakers, and bullying is breaking the law. One good slash on the backside for the first offense, then double the strokes for each new offense. That should get their attention.

    April 15, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kat

    I want to know where the "bully's" parents are? Didn't they ever teach their kids how to treat others? The parents need to be charged right with the school and their children. No one did their job in this town!

    April 15, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. C

    Gracie – bullying is tolerated in adult workplaces every single day. I have never been bullied before in my entire life. A few years ago I took a job and found myself being bullied and tortured relentlessly by a "colleague" who was worried that I was competition and would impact his income. I almost killed myself, it was so intense and relentless and no one I approached would address it. Years later I am still being treated for severe depression, anxiety and PTSD. Bullying is pervasive and addressing it when kids are still kids is important – it shouldn't be trivialized as just a part of growing up.

    April 15, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joyce

    I think many parents have trouble admitting that their precious little darlings could every bully anyone. Either that or the parents are bullies themselves. I'm from the Boston area, though not South Hadley, and it horrifies me that this got so bad. I understand other students being scared to speak up for fear of becoming targets themselves, but teachers have no excuse. None. And the principal should have acted immediately.

    I'm glad to hear the superintendent stepped down; listening to him justify the school district's inaction was disgusting.

    April 15, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kenneth

    I can only hope that as the years go by. As these kids grow into adults. They realize what their action have caused. That the torment grows and consumes their soul to the point that they can never find a moments peace within themselves.

    April 15, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
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