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. Calvin Hobbes

    These are more than "just tenns" they are adults. They need to be sent to prison. Make sure they really understand what they did. Words coached by their attorneys aren't going to cut it. This was not just a "suicide" due to harassment, this was murder.

    April 15, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Hokie88

    I don't think people understand the way schools are now. You can't do anything to any student or the parents will sue. If these bullies had something done to them, their parents would have jumped up and down and gotten their way. Also, we can't kick kids out of school because NCLB says we have to have certain attendence numbers or we will get in trouble. Welcome to the educational system of today. Very sad.

    April 15, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob

    In an enlightened society, people hold themselves and each other accountable. We've got a plethora of dim-wits in the mix...

    April 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Belinda

    Arresting these students is the first step in making sure that other students don't do the same thing. The parents should be sued . The guilty students jailed. The school should come up with anti bullying rules. Many teachers ignore bully behavior, they should also be held responsible.They should be fired after more than one incident.In this case, the school deserves to be sued, because if they are not , they will continue to allow the behavior. My son was driven to attempt suicide, by careless and thoughtless school administrators in San Antonio, Texas.Thomas Jefferson high school, has a long history of encouraging bullying behavior towards special need students, Rape and violence against students. Nothing has changed there in the past twenty years. Schools think they can do whatever they want without regard for state or federal law. It's about time families demand change from schools everywhere in the U.S. Belinda

    April 15, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. brown

    Workplace and school bullying is responsible for many ruined lives.
    Every other month we read about someone walking into their workplace
    and killing people. We are content to call them crazy and move on with our
    lives. I believe bullying, whether in the office or at school drives people
    to commit these terrible crimes.

    April 15, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dawn

    In the old days, when you left school at least the bullying was over for the day. Now, they have computers, cell phones, texting & sexting. This entire schoold should be held up as an example of what not to do. This lovely young girl killed herself. I hope everyone in that school, from the principal, teachers & other students who did nothing to help her, think about what they have done everyday for the rest of their life. Truly sad.

    April 15, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. what'snext?

    What is so sad about this story is that there was obvious and recorded instances of harrassment of this girl and no one did anything about it. And now she is dead and someone must be punished for it. Without people being held accountable, it will surely happen again. If I accidentally hit a person with my car I am held more accountable then these "children" who purposely tormented this girl into her grave and thought it FUNNY. The next thing you know you will see parents walking through the halls with their children to ensure their safety as the schools aren't able to protect them. Parents need to continually talk to their children, let them know that they are there to support them. Children shouldn't be afraid to tell that they are being bullied . Telling doesn' t make them weak but strong to be able to tell someone and trust that they will get help. This is a new age, this is not the "punch the bully in the nose and he will never bother you again" age like it was when we grew up. It's now "face the bully and he and his friends will beat you to death so as not to lose face" . I mean my god, a girl got beaten into a coma over a text message.....A TEXT MESSAGE PEOPLE. I dunno I think these parents who choose to homeschool are onto something.

    April 15, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. retinals

    The teachers and administrators should take lots of the responsibilities. As educators, they failed miserably, 1 suicide and 6 charged ( 4 girls!! and two boys) in one school. Come on. If they did not see there were problems or not willing to take actions, they should not be there. They are either hard working but incapable or not focused enough doing their job. Suicide might be an accident. But 6 very aggressive bullying teenagers with a history are not an accident.
    As for these teenagers, they need to be punished for they've done. And that poor girl will never get a second chance.

    April 15, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mimi

    My bet is that depression is at the heart of the suicide; bullying just reinforces it. Depression kills and no matter what it's difficult to see any alternate route except taking one's life. People who have never expreienced major depression can't understand it. Teenage suicide is very high because depression doesn't allow for life to go on...it snuffs it out.
    This is a girl plucked from her homeland and moved to S. Hadley where she was the new kid. That plus depression kills!

    April 15, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. qp2

    I've noticed that the adults at school generally are more impressed with the popular children. In other words, the popular children are not only "popular" amongst their peers they are also popular with/favored by the adults. They get away with much more.

    April 15, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tiller in Dallas

    Unbelievable. Inaction like that deserves a jail term. Really, if I was in any way associated with that school I would leave town and never go back. What a sham. How do those teachers look at themselves in the mirror every day?

    April 15, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jfc1

    What a disgusting set of hypocrites.

    NOW they want school members to resign.

    What were all these parents doing while this girl was being bullied, tormented by their kids?

    Maybe they should all be fired as parents.

    April 15, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Aaron

    I graduated from South Hadley High School a few years ago, and I witnessed the bullying when I was there. The only difference–back then, there was no Facebook, Twitter, or text messaging to allow the abuse to follow children home. Such a sad situation. The socioeconomic underpinnings of the town cultivated a perfect storm for this tragedy.

    April 15, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Parent

    As society develops the basics of teaching our kids have been lost. The political game is played in schools, as teacher will not punish students due to the fear of parents responding to the action. If parents would allow the school to act when needed and the parents to stand behind the school actions. Our thirteen year olds look like eighteen and the clothes that our kids are allowed to wear is wrong. Dress codes are not followed by students and not enforced by teacher, but stop who is buying these clothes PARENTS!!
    Cell phones being used by our kids contributes to the problem. If a student says one thing wrong in class, by the time that class is over it is spread all over the school. Maybe a child getting put over a parents knee should come back, due to the fact our kids are not scared of anyone they will continue doing what they want!!!

    April 15, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. peace4all

    Yes, bullying should be met with strong consequences, but bullying will not stop until we look at what the bullies need to transform. Hating them, locking them away (for a time) will make things worse, will give them more skills for violence. With love, TOUGH love, some kids who are bullying WILL change. There's too much of it to just eliminate all of them.

    The kids who did this probably feel like dying themselves, even without reading these posts.

    We also have to activate the bystanders. The ones who knew what was going on but said nothing out of fear or (God forbid) indifference. Kids have to feel empowered to out the bullying of others.

    April 15, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
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