Nine high-school students were indicted Monday on felony charges in the suicide case of a 15-year-old Massachusetts freshman. Phoebe Prince, who attended South Hadley High School in Western Massachusetts, hanged herself in January, after her family had recently moved to the country from Ireland.
A judge ruled today that the taunting and physical threats of these nine students in the months before the hanging directly led to Prince’s suicide, as their conduct was deemed to have “exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship-related quarrels.”
“The taunting started when she had a brief relationship with a popular senior boy; some students reportedly called her an 'Irish slut,' knocked books out of her hands and sent her threatening text messages, day after day," the Times reports. “ [this led to] nearly three months of severe taunting and physical threats by a cluster of fellow students.”
The nine students — who range in age from 16 to 18 — face a spectrum of charges that include statutory rape, violation of civil rights with bodily injury, harassment, stalking, and disturbing a school assembly. The “unusually sharp legal response” comes down as Massachusetts is close to passing anti-bullying legislation that would require school staff to report suspected incidents and principals to investigate them.