Reigniting the debate over teenage bullying, Slate's Emily Bazelon argues that the widely publicized suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince last January was not the clear-cut "bullycide" that prosecutors and the media have made it out to be. Bazelon reveals that Prince was depressed and troubled — and had already attempted suicide — before the bullying started at Massachusetts's South Hadley High School. While some of the teenagers accused of hounding Prince (and taunting her with slurs like "Irish slut") were unquestionably cruel, not all of them were, says Bazelon. Is this a case of teenage evil, or an overzealous prosecutor? (Watch a local report about the Prince case)
Adults are blaming kids for their own failures: Nothing excuses "slut-shaming," says Anna North in Jezebel, but the bullying appears to have been "far less organized and far shorter in duration" than District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel claims. Are the tormentors being punished for their own actions or for the school administrators' failure to help Phoebe after her mom told them she "had suffered bullying in her native Ireland and was on antidepressants"?
"Was bullying really behind Phoebe Prince's suicide?"
Bazelon's revelations change nothing: Phoebe Prince "clearly had emotional problems," says Cahir O'Doherty at Irish Central, but so do many teenagers. "That's not an inevitable path to suicide." On the day Prince hanged herself, "some kids bullied her about as viciously as kids can and she snapped. I don't think it's overbearing or insupportable to insist they be reprimanded for their actions."
"Phoebe Prince’s suicide attempt doesn’t let her tormentors off the hook"
If anything, Phoebe Prince's troubled past makes the bullies' actions worse: The "horrendous behavior" of Prince's classmates is even "more upsetting" now, says blogger Sierra at Babble's Strollerderby. They taunted her "knowing how emotionally fragile she was. "Bazelon sees a lot of shades of gray in this story, but from where I’m sitting it still looks like this group of popular kids bullied a young woman to death."
"New questions about Phoebe Prince's suicide"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- A brief history of the Christmas present
- Pope Francis' American problem
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
Subscribe to the Week