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. Mark

    All the administrators need to be removed along with the teachers who had knowledge of the situation and didn't report it. Plain and simple. Then those who failed to act need to be held criminally responsible. Having worked in a school system for over 15 years, I know this is what has to be done. Everyone is trying to pass the blame on someone else. If they knew of a child who was being abused and they didn't report it they would face criminal charges under the mandated reporter laws. Same thing here.

    April 16, 2010 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. Rachel

    you can't protect the weak....
    we are the only species that doesn't honor "survival of the fittest"

    April 16, 2010 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. William

    These sad events only make "HEADLINES" after injury or death, people failed and ignored the warning signs. There should be prosecution charges.

    April 16, 2010 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  4. Brian Dodge

    I was a glasses wearing nerd in grade school, and was bullied until I made friends with Richard, a farm boy who was raised in poverty, and had been "held back" a couple of grades. I helped him with homework, and he became my protector. He was 8 inches taller than everyone else in my classes, and strong as an ox from all the labor on the farm. He only had to toss around a few bullies before word got around to leave me alone. Even after he dropped out, I didn't get bullied – I guess the idea that he might show up was as effective as his actual presence.

    April 16, 2010 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  5. sm

    When I was in High School there was Zero Tolerance on bullying/harassment.

    If a teacher saw/thought they saw bullying/harassment they had to Intervene and put the bully in detention. During the time when we were going between classes there were ALWAYS teachers walking/standing in the halls watching students, monitoring us. Even our Principle and vice-principle would walk the halls. Zero Talerance.

    That is what should be done at schools. No matter how large. You see a crime like bullying happening you report it, you do something about it.

    April 16, 2010 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. Laura

    The thing that really disgusts me about this story is that after Phoebe Prince killed herself her friends put up a memorial for her on Facebook. The kids who bullied her also posted stuff on facebook stating that they killed Phoebe Prince and were basically bragging about it. They were happy with themselves that she was gone. This is NOT a mind of someone that is healthy emotionally. For teens to think that one of their fellow classmates took their own life is sickening. I also agree with the term, "It takes a whole village to raise a child". What does that say about how our general society is like today?

    April 16, 2010 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. ceaser

    South Hadley has disgraced itself,is an embarrassment to the nation,and will be remembered for its"hospitality",it's disgusting.

    April 16, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  8. JO

    There comes a time in life when you have to stop blaming the parents,and start holding these brats accountable for their actions! They need to be jailed for awhile and wake up!

    April 16, 2010 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kamal

    Rest in Peace Phoebe! Seems there's a little roughneck who's trying to target my son as his personal punching bag. I'm taking the "civil" approach by establishing dialog with the counselor. with any luck she'll handle it accordingly. Bullying can no longer be taken as "something that happens to everyone". It ultimately affects everyone in the least expected ways. I really hope something is done soon before even more horrendous things happen.

    April 16, 2010 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. Matt D

    They must have been pretty hard on this poor little girl. God bless her family for their anguish and I pray for them to find peace in their hearts some day. Bullies aren't perceived like they used to be. When I would get beat up after school I would go home, hide my black eye from my mother for a few days, then deal with it. The bully would eventually go away. I'm seeing something different these days on school campuses. The bullies are getting more fierce. Nevertheless, I feel the people in charge of the schools have a greater responsibility to keep up with the bad behavior and deal with it agressively. And if they can't fess up to admitting their mistakes then maybe they should be arrested to as accomplices.

    April 16, 2010 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. tfarhall

    you take God and corporal punishment out of schools.... fill the schools with under educated or left wing liberals.... throw money at them good after bad....
    and this is what you get

    April 16, 2010 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  12. Chris D

    Bullying is bullying as you well documented. There is no excuse. All parents and teachers missed the warning signs.

    But anyone who knowing sees someone commit an illegal act and does nothing is an accessory. Those teachers and even some of the schoolkids who were there and said nothing and did nothing are also accountable. I would like to see a proper independant enquiry not the usual cover up we will get and those who turned a blind eye be punished in some way. It will not bring anything back for the poor parents of this tragic young girl but hopefully will stop it happening again. As for the teachers not being babysitters, while they are at school they are the responsibility of the school.

    And for schoolkids it is not cool to watch a bully or bullies beat someone up either with words or physically.
    It is sick and those who do it are not heroes they are not more than animakls and those who do or say nothing are as bad as the bullies because you are condoning their actions.

    April 16, 2010 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. Caral from SoCal

    Seriously...if people in this town were NOT upset and demanding answers, that would be much more worrisome than an agitated crowd gathering at this meeting. We had all best take a page from their book and get upset – because this type of bullying goes on all around us. Maybe not quite as mean or quite as pervasive...but I just cannot believe some of what goes on.

    April 16, 2010 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. Steve

    What are the chances that, if someone spoke to the bully's parents, that the parents would have said "My Sally (or Johnny) would never do such a thing!" or "They are just being kids." Parents have to be open to see who their children really are and act accordingly, or none of this will ever improve. I've seen parents absolutely refuse to accept the fact that their kids might have some problems, which makes the problems only grow. As has been said, it all starts with the parents!

    April 16, 2010 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  15. Dre

    They should just make the parents fully legally responsible for their childrens actions. If theyre kid assaults somebody they should be charged for it just as if they had done it. Then theyll have some real incentive to teach their kids not to bully.

    April 16, 2010 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
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