Felony Charges for School Bullies

Map of Massachusetts highlighting Hampshire County
Hampshire County, MA, home of South Hadley

The DA’s  Office in South Hadley, Massachusetts has returned felony charges against a number of students who, through their campaign of bullying, drove a 15-year-old to commit suicide in January. Elizabeth Scheibel at a press conference yesterday that “the investigation revealed a relentless activity directed toward Phoebe, designed to humiliate her and to make it impossible for her to remain at school. The bullying, for her, became intolerable.”

While I am glad that those involved are being held accountable, it is so sad and such a shame that a high school freshman committed suicide after treatment largely at school that went unchecked. Scheibel said school officials would not be charged, but the adults in Phoebe’s life quite clearly failed her.

The adults who are charged with our children’s safety, well-being, and education cannot continue to look the other way, or dismiss bullying behavior as “kids being kids”. Nor can we pretend it does not happen. We must continue to talk to youth about what their lives are like, what their struggles are, and whether they are supported in the ways they need.

Do your kids’ teachers ask them how they are doing in meaningful ways? Does your school have these conversations? Do you see and hear adults genuinely asking youth how they are in authentic and respectful ways that go beyond “I’m fine”?

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