When do we Cowboy Up? – Bullying, Phoebe Prince and Accountability

Press photo of Pheobe Prince

Press photo of Pheobe Prince (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An Emily Bazelon wrote an online article for Slate magazine  (link: http://www.nowpublic.com/world/phoebe-prince-suicide-article-slate-magazine-untold-story-2642915.html ) in part  insinuating that the 6 teens charged in the case were being punished disproportionately and further – that Ms Prince’s alleged mental health issues were alone to blame for her suicide.

She writes:

‘There is no question that some of the teenagers facing criminal charges treated Phoebe cruelly. But not all of them did. And it’s hard to see how any of the kids going to trial this fall ever could have anticipated the consequences of their actions, for Phoebe or for themselves. Should we send teenagers to prison for being nasty to one another? Is it really fair to lay the burden of Phoebe’s suicide on these kids?

My investigation into the events that gave rise to Phoebe’s death, based on extensive interviews and review of law enforcement records, reveals the uncomfortable fact that Phoebe helped set in motion the conflicts with other students that ended in them turning on her. Her death was tragic, and she shouldn’t have been bullied. But she was deeply troubled long before she ever met the six defendants. And her own behavior made other students understandably upset. ‘

I have huge issues with this on SO many levels I can hardly decide where to start.   This problem is so out of control in this country.  Americans seem to see bullying as an accepted rite of passage  as it supposedly teaches us to “grow a thicker skin” and strengthen our internal coping skills. We all have to learn that not everyone will like us or treat us fairly. That’s the way of the world unfortunately.  However, bullying in any form is NOT an acceptable way to teach this life lesson.  Those that engage in bullying have low self-esteem and are insecure – but this does not and should not in any way excuse their actions.  Most teenagers have low self-esteem and are insecure, but are not bullies.

Ms Bazelon’s article insinuates that the punishment for these 6 teenagers is disproportionate to the alleged crime; and that perhaps these 6 have suffered enough. Seriously???? What of accountability???  Lots of people have been blame-storming at the school, the parents etc. To an extent both the school system and the parents share blame in that there was not enough assistance given from the school to the young woman; and the school certainly did not discipline the alleged offenders strongly enough. Clearly, there was also not enough parental involvement in the families of the six and certainly not enough discipline for inappropriate behavior. But ultimately, these teens are responsible for their own actions.

We used to be a country that prided itself on self–reliance and independence. These days, we are more interested in finding others at fault for our mistakes than we are in taking responsibility for them.  We learn nothing valuable and cannot grow as individuals with this mindset. When do we “cowboy up”?  In the end, each of these 6 individuals made a deliberate choice to be absolutely horrible to another person. There is no acceptable excuse for that.  They wanted to dance; now they gotta pay the band.

Ms Bazelon’s article also suggested that the DA stepped in because (and only because) South Hadley school officials dropped the ball.  NOT TRUE.  The South Hadley school system did indeed drop the ball and continues to fail to adequately address this issue.  However, it is important to realize the DA’s office investigated and filed criminal charges against these 6 teens BECAUSE THERE WAS MORE THAN ENOUGH SUPPORTED EVIDENCE TO DO SO, PERIOD.  It would appear that one of Ms Bazelon’s sources of information – who ran for DA in this past years  election – had a political motive/vested interest in making her look bad.  A young girl is dead, and it galls me that someone would use that for political gain.

I am also reading a lot of comments/opinions that blame Phoebe Prince for her own death due to alleged mental health issues.  At the most basic level, this is a true statement because she took her own life.   However, Former DA Schiebel was entirely correct in stating “the existence of a disability does not legally excuse a defendant’s criminal actions.” The teens are being charged with the actions that lead to her reaction of suicide – regardless of whether or not she attempted it before.  Clearly, this poor girl had limited coping skills, but this does not excuse the treatment she received from these other children. These kids pushed her right over the edge.  I’ve read that Phoebe would “probably have taken her own life, regardless.” This statement is completely irrelevant. We can never know what she might have done, we only know what she did.

I firmly believe we need to change how we view bullying. We don’t allow harassment in the workplace – it’s a criminal offense. Why then do we allow our children to be subjected to it in our schools?  Kids these days don’t even get a break from it at home anymore – with facebook, myspace, youtube, texting and cell phones there’s no place to hide.  We have an opportunity here to find some good from this tragic situation –  and others like it -by holding people accountable, and thereby sending the message we’re not going to tolerate this crap anymore.  Thank you, that is all. . .

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8 thoughts on “When do we Cowboy Up? – Bullying, Phoebe Prince and Accountability

  1. This is way late, but you are dead right on this one. These kids punished enough? They bragged at their prom that they killed her! How does the author of that piece justify that? They bragged the next day about “getting” her. Really. And the Super,and the principal all passed it off to kids being kids. The Students, teachers, and parents all had continuously complained that something needed to be done, and yet the super and principal chose to do nothing.

    Parents from whats referred to as So. Hadley Center ran that town, and everyone from the rest of the town was to be looked down upon. The school was afraid of those parents, and it was ALL their little Darlings that were involved in the bullying. If you saw the one girl at the trial, with the fake tears and fake compassion, and her mother crying out thats she been punished enough. BS!!! Her daughter is standing before her; Mrs. Prince’s daughter is in the ground.

    This town has some pretty warped values, and I can’t even imagine what warped messages their kids are walking away with.

    • I actually wrote that back when the Slate article first came out, before I started blogging. , then posted it when some related stuff was going on. I was just completely pissed off and figured it was still relevant so I went ahead blogged it.

      • Because personal responsibility and accountability are rapidly going the way of the dodo bird. “It can’t be my fault; its never my fault.”

        Geraldo’s apology a perfect example. “If what I said offended anyone, then I am sorry.” What a piece of BS. In other words, its my fault if his words were offensive to me. Why not just say, “I am sorry for what I said?” and take ownership of it.

        It is the political apology of the day. Limbaughs “wrong choice of words.” There is no ownership, no responsibility today.

        BTW Can you tell this is also a hot button with me???

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