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High School's 'new girl,' driven to suicide by teenage cyber bullies

Nine Massachusetts teenagers were indicted Monday for driving a pretty 15-year-old "new girl" from Ireland to suicide in a case that has become a symbol of high school and online bullying.

The sweeping charges - which come after months of complaints that the bullies weren't being punished - include statutory rape, violation of civil rights with bodily injury, criminal harassment and stalking.

Phoebe Prince, a new arrival at South Hadley High School from a tiny seaside hamlet in County Clare, was mercilessly tormented by a cadre of classmates later dubbed the "Mean Girls" by Massachusetts newspapers.

"The investigation revealed relentless activity directed towards Phoebe designed to humiliate her and to make it impossible for her to remain at school," said District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel.

"The bullying for her became intolerable."

According to students, Phoebe was called "Irish slut" and "whore" on Twitter, Craigslist, Facebook and Formspring.

Her books were routinely knocked out of her hands, items were flung at her, her face was scribbled out of photographs on the school walls, and threatening text messages were sent to her cell phone.

Scheibel said she had drawn the ire of the "Mean Girls" by briefly dating a popular senior football player in her first weeks at the school.

On Jan. 14, Phoebe was harassed and threatened in the school library and in a hallway at school, Scheibel said. As she walked home, one of the "Mean Girls" drove by and threw a can of Red Bull at her.

Phoebe walked into her house and hung herself in a stairwell.

But the nastiness didn't even end there. Her tormentors actually posted snide comments on the dead girl's Facebook memorial page.

For months, community anger simmered that no punishment had befallen Phoebe's bullies. Petitions were signed and town hall meetings held.

Scheibel said her investigators were taking the time to investigate thoroughly, and slammed "the inexplicable lack of cooperation from Internet service providers, in particular Facebook and Craigslist."

Seven of the nine charged Monday are girls charged with a range of crimes, from criminal harassment to stalking to civil rights violations. A juvenile was charged with assault by means of a dangerous weapon - namely, the Red Bull can.

The two males, 17 and 18, are charged with statutory rape.

Unveiling the indictments Monday, Scheibel said numerous faculty members, staff members and administrators at South Hadley High School were aware of the bullying - some even witnessed physical abuse - and did nothing.

She said the investigation looked at whether the adults' failure to help Phoebe amounted to criminal behavior.

"In our opinion, it did not," she said. "Nevertheless, the actions or inactions of some adults at the school are troublesome."

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Posted in: News by SoulRiser on April 7, 2010 @ 10:32 PM

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