Her name was Phoebe Prince. She was 15 years old. She had come from Ireland to the United States, her excitement to be here exceeded only by her excitement at returning to Ireland to see her dad. She was a freshman at South Hadley High, and had a short romance with a senior on the football team.
And so she became a target.
The whole concept of "Mean Girls" isn't just a movie. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of their ire (like me back in high school) knows that the vague platitudes of standing up for yourself don't work. They are cruel, vicious, and heartless, and exist in all walks of life and all age groups. Some are lucky and develop coping mechanisms, like how to employ simple avoidance. Some are luckier and learn how to fight back in a way that discourages any further attention from them. But we are rare. And we are considered wrong. First, there's the whole "you shouldn't pick on girls" thing that they employ as a convenient strawman that turns the Establishment into their own personal army. Then, we are told we should be trying to get along and bridge our differences, not reinforce them. They can't help it if they can't act without humanity, but we can, and we are expected to tolerate the abuse (and this is where some of us are luckiest, as we learned the art of subterfuge).
The Mean Girls clique in school started following Phoebe around, calling her a slut. When they wanted to pile it on, they called her an Irish slut. Name-calling, stalking, and intimidation were the marching orders of the day.
On Jan 14, Phoebe was walking home when a Mean Girl went by in a car. The Mean Girl started insulting her and threw a canned energy drink at her. Phoebe didn't react right away. She just went home. Then, she went into her closet and hung herself. Her 12 year old sister found her.
The Mean Girls went on Facebook and made fun of Phoebe's suicide. They continued to badmouth Phoebe at school. They even went to a dance two days after Phoebe's suicide, bragging about how they were playing dumb with the police investigating.
A Springfield, MA TV station sent a camera crew to interview students. One student talked on camera about the predators stalking the halls of the schools. The camera went off, the crew left, and a Mean Girl grabbed the student, slammed her against a locker, and punched her in the head.
Instead of trying to deal with the bullies, people are asking why Phoebe hung herself instead of standing up to the abuse. They are blaming the victim. And the Mean Girls are left alone. There are supposedly three investigations going on at the school, but the school says these things take time. And a meeting that was planned to address all this this past week, but it has been postponed indefinitely.
Phoebe has returned to Ireland, but in a pine box. Her family buried her in County Clare, because "they wanted an ocean between her" and her tormentors.
When you're a parent, you have the responsibility to teach your kids and protect them.
How in the world could I ever protect my kids against something like this?