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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Too late to take action against bullies

It looks like government and school officials are starting to take bullying seriously, but it’s a little late for that.

It shouldn’t take a bully-induced suicide for the country to recognize the severity of relentless taunting in educational institutions.

In the aftermath of 15-year-old South Hadley High School student Phoebe Prince’s suicide, which was the result of constant bullying from multiple classmates, the Massachusetts House unanimously approved a bill that seeks to curtail bullying in schools and in cyberspace, according to the Boston Globe.

Before taking her own life, Prince was mercilessly teased for dating a popular football player, cyberbullied via Facebook and text message, and her harassers also called her an Irish slut. One classmate even told Prince to go kill herself. Superintendent Guy Sayer said that no one in the school system was aware of Prince’s suffering, yet that statement appears to be false.

In January, the Boston Globe reported that Prince ran out of class in tears, and what sensible, attentive teacher would take a blind eye to that kind of emotional distress in a student?

“”Prior to Phoebe’s death, her mother spoke with at least two school staff members about the harassment Phoebe had reported to her,”” said Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel.

Six teenagers and three students were also charged in connection with Prince’s death this week. Some of the charges include statutory rape, violation of civil rights, criminal harassment and disturbing a school assembly, as reported by another Boston Globe article.

It’s commendable of the Massachusetts House to push anti-bullying measures, and Prince’s harassers absolutely deserve their charges. None of this will bring Prince back to life, though, nor will it revive the countless other victims of harassment that felt their lives had become simply unbearable.

This doesn’t change the fact that 13-year-old Megan Meier hanged herself in 2006 after being cyberbullied by an ex-friend’s mother. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old gay male from Springfield, Massachusetts, hanged himself in 2009 after enduring months of anti-gay bullying. Prince, Meier, and Walker-Hoover are just some of the many individuals that believed that death would be easier than sticking through the torment they faced on a daily basis.

Why did this country need to experience a growing trend of bully-sparked suicides before finally taking legitimate action against such emotionally abusive behavior? Children and teenagers have been teased for many years, and technological advancements have made it possible for bullies to bother their victims at all hours of the day. AOL Instant Messenger, Facebook, and MySpace allow bullies to menace others from home, so there’s essentially no escape or place of refuge for the bullied.

Other states would be wise to push for anti-bullying bills, but none of these drastic measures will undo the irreparable damage that was done to Prince, Meier, Walker-Hoover and harassment victims everywhere.

Why did it take a series of preventable, devastating deaths for the government and schools to understand that bullying does, in fact, ruin lives? Schools everywhere should expel or at the very least suspend those who commit horrendous bullying acts against other students. More often than not, the harassers get a verbal warning, which does not keep them from teasing for very long.

Because so many schools have neglected the needs of the harassed, students have killed themselves, and now it’s necessary to take legal action against bullies who were not kept in line as they should have been. It should not have taken this long for the deadly effects of bullying to receive such national coverage.

Imagine how many lives could have been spared if school officials had the sense and decency earlier on in history to actually punish bullies. Sadly, Prince, Meier, and Walker-Hoover, among countless others, needed to die before educational institutions and the government finally got the hint.

—Laura Donovan is a creative writing senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

 

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