Bullying is a serious crime: seeking revenge for Phoebe
April 12, 2010
by Kristen Miller

I just recently became aware of the Phoebe Prince story, the 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who hung herself in her closet after being relentlessly bullied in and outside school.

The whole story saddens me – to know that young people can be so cruel as to lead another to their own death.

Granted, depression is what led Phoebe to take her own life, but what caused the depression is what is currently being debated in court.

I first read the story on CBS News’ Crimesider in an article titled “Phoebe Prince: Suicide by Bullying – Teen’s death angers town, asking why bullies roam the halls.”

It made me feel so mad that some little punks who ran their mouths off brought a vulnerable teen to take her own life. She felt it was the only way to make it all stop.

Also – as I wrote in my bullying article this week – after awhile, she probably began to feel she deserved the lewd comments that were directed at her.

No one deserves to be degraded as she was and tormented day after day.

As children, I’m sure we have all made fun of our peers, if not in front of their face, behind their back.

Some say it’s in a child’s nature to act in such ways from time-to-time. Kids will be kids, right?

I think it’s more than that. I think it’s what we allow young people to get away with.

Of course, we can’t know what a child is doing every minute of every day, especially, when they are not in our presence, but teaching them that such behavior – on any level – is not acceptable is where it starts.

What scares me is not the 5-year-old on the playground so much – though that is where such behavior can begin – it’s the middle schoolers and the teenagers, who are that much more vulnerable and capable of more extreme behaviors and reactions.

Being teased as a 5-year-old doesn’t quite have the same effects as a 14-year-old capable of bringing a .22 caliber to school and seeking revenge like in the recent Hastings situation.

This is where teachers, administrators, and social workers have their work cut out for them, and when they need to be most observant and take each situation seriously.

They are the ones who can at least attempt to stop such behavior, that could lead to damaging cognitive effects and could ultimately affect the whole school.

It’s critical that each situation is taken seriously, because you never know where it could lead.

A Hastings Middle School science teacher was commended for his bravery in talking a student down from doing damage, but what ultimately saved lives was that the boy had the wrong bullets loaded in the gun.

It was also stated that this was likely a reaction to bullying.

Bullying is more than just constant teasing and putting someone down. It’s an attack on a person’s self esteem and mental health.

Now, it’s not just going on inside the classroom or at the bus stop, it’s online, where there is even less control and opportunity to defend oneself.

Lies and rumors can be multiplied and scattered across cyberspace, leaving the target feeling victimized and helpless.

These people need to know who they can turn to, and that justice will be sought.

No matter what, children are vulnerable at any age and no one deserves to be treated with anything less than respect.

We know kids will be kids, but all situations where bullying is taking place needs to be addressed and stopped immediately. Otherwise, anger and depression can fester, causing unpredictable reactions.

Bullies also need to suffer consequences for their vindictiveness and the pain they caused, whether physically or mentally.

In Phoebe’s case, she might actually get revenge after all.

Charges have been filed against nine teens in connection with her suicide, including stalking, criminal harassment, and violation of her civil rights.

I think it’s important that these teens are held accountable for their behavior.

Young children and teens everywhere need to know bullying is unacceptable behavior and there are more severe consequences than an afternoon in detention.