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. Mr. Deeds

    It is tragic the young woman had a successful suicide. Charles Darwin always said it was about the survival of the fittest. Learn to deal with all of life's challenges including bullying or perish so others may prosper. America raises this generation with weak skin and it shows by the comments on this page. Remorsefulness is a proper emotion to show, but weakness of the mind is intolerable. The parents of the girl need to take fault as well and enroll in parental guidance courses of instruction.

    April 15, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Andrew

    Teachers and school administrators, do you really need training to handle bullying in your school ? do you know what to do if that poor girl is your own child being tortured daily at where you work ? Now please spend 2 minutes a day to assume you're the parent of that poor girl, how do you feel ?

    April 15, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Charles Centers

    There is a way to deal with bullying. Make the bullies watch the videos and autopsies of those killed in school shootings. Explain to them that this could have been them. Then tell the parents of the bullies that if one more incident of bullying happens the kid is kicked out of school permanently. It will be up to the parents to home school the child and make sure they get a GED. If they say they can't control their child then the state should step in and take the child. Then the parents should have pay the state for raising their child. If the child, does not get a GED by the time he is 18 then put him in jail at hard labor until he gets one.

    April 15, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Les

    In middle school our neighbors sone was bullied and the schools response was maybe they should take him out the last 3 months and do independent study. This was their solution instead of dealing with the students doing the bullying.

    Oh the adults responding in the meeting this way because just like our government people supposedly in the position of leadership is not listening. They always know better. Well they did not this time. After the facts are in no administrator or teacher aware of what was happening should have a job, and teh parents should file a civil suit.

    April 15, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Naomi

    My daughter was a victim of a bully in the 5th grade. She went through so much. It's 4 years later and she is still not her self. She has difficulty trusting a therapist especially since her first said that she was just sensitive. Not only was she victimized by the bully, but also by a bad therapist. Make sure to interview them and get therapy right away. I wish I had pursued another opinion.

    April 15, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. 1ANNAH2

    Everyone is so upset now. Will you all still be upset when they go back to court and face a jury or will they make a deal before they get that far. A slap on the hand and everyone forgets what happened and they continue the bulling– because we gave them permission again !! I feel like they finally pulled the trigger and shot her in the head- Hanging , shot in the head - all the same to me.! People have short memories and the lawyers will keep this going until the public forgets– and the bulling keeps on going– what's the answer– lord only knows....... But start with the parents , the school next and so on... But don't forget- -Forgiveness is out of the question !!

    April 15, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Wesley Dallas

    When my boys were growing up I taught them to never allow themselves to be bullied and to aggressively, and ruthlessly, attack anyone who attempted to terrorize them. On two occasions I went to school officials after I learned that other students began a campaign against my sons. I warned them that they had one chance to intervene and stop the nonsense, or my sons would do it for them. This put them on notice and put the responsibility for what was going to happen next in their laps.

    In one case, the school principal took action and the matter ended. In the other case, another principal did nothing and as promised, my other son ended the abuse decisively, breaking one of his enemy's nose. He was left alone after that. An attempt to expel him failed at the disciplinary hearing.

    Parents and students who outsource their security are foolish.

    April 15, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. TKAM

    Bullying starts early. My five year-old was bullied this year as she started kindergarten. She was crying and didn't want to go to school. I had to step in to help put a stop to it. The sad thing is....I think the school just wants to ignore it and think it's not "that bad." But if this shows us anything, it is that bad, and if you don't stop it early, it can escalate with terrible consequences. My heart goes out to this family. I too was bullied and there is no place for it. Our children should be able to go to school and feel safe and nurtured. But instead, I had to roll-play with my daughter and help her to find the words to stand up for herself. Administrators need to have a no-tolerance policy as young as kindergarten up through high school, and actually STAND BY IT. It's not okay and there should be consequences and parents should also recognize that it's not just "kids being kids," it's mean kids being allowed to torture others with no regard to peers.

    April 15, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Brian

    Schools in this country couldn't be much worse than they are. It's like the movie Blackboard Jungle.

    April 15, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ApprxAm

    The old axiom of boys will be boys (Mean girls), I hope, has begun to see its end. No one send their children to school to deal with this type of behavior. You'd think this would've been the track taken since the Columbine shootings. Bullying only fortifies the weak with the image of power through the abuse of the small and defenseless.

    Since this type of abuse is typical on school campuses, then it's natural the schools should be the clearinghouse to combat it.

    April 15, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ronnie

    I used to be bullied in school. Then I joined the Marine Corps. Things changed after that.

    April 15, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Not surprised.

    Know what will stop it? Fine the parents of bullies for every offense.

    April 15, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ?

    Wow there is shocker,stepping down is seem quite coward to do.Teachers resigning and screaming for something which they wasn't involved prince's case at all.
    They don't see any error in school but inaction?...
    I bet they did look away and didn't call her or their parents at all,so guilty as charged.The End.

    April 15, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jeff

    I feel completely terrible that anyone feels that taking their own life is the only answer and there is no excuse for what happened to her.

    As a teacher I can tell you a few things. Please don't place too much responsibility on the teachers for this incident. Having worked in three different schools, not one time did I ever hear a a teacher say "kids will be kids". Never, and never had I seen a teacher turn a blind eye to bullying. Bullying is not an impossible aspect of life to overcome, but it is very, very hard. There are so many factors in a school setting that it is unrealistic to blame it all on the school who "didn't help her".

    April 16, 2010 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. angry person

    I'm glad those bullys are being charged and I'm glad the 2 guys are being charged with rape maybe it will get through kids minds if you have sex under the age of 18 even if you both agree to it if you are found out you will be charged with rape.

    April 16, 2010 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
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