Phoebe Prince, who relocated to Massachusetts from Fanore, Co Clare, with her family last September, died after taking a suspected overdose at her home on Thursday, January 14.
School authorities and local police are investigating the young girl’s death in the sleepy Massachusetts town of South Hadley amid claims she was the victim of a vicious bullying campaign.
Indications of the levels of cruelty of the bullies was evident from the malicious messages posted on a Facebook page set up after the girl’s death.
The site contained disturbing images and comments relating to Phoebe’s death, and purported to be her own homepage. This site was last night closed and messages from a site dedicated to her memory has been made private.
One student at South Hadley High School last week told local reporters that other children had moved from the town because they could not deal with the bullying. Dozens of commentators on a Massachusetts news site claimed it was well-known in the town who was carrying out the bullying which led to Phoebe’s death.
The school is convening a task force to try and develop constructive ways to address bullying. School principal Daniel Smith earlier this week said a few students had come forward, saying that Phoebe was bullied because of dating issues.
“Phoebe was a smart, charming – and as is the case with many teenagers – complicated young person who truly valued her close friends and her family,” he said.
“We will never know the specific reasons why she chose to take her life. However, both local and state police investigations are looking into the role that bullying may have played in her decision. Now that we’ve had a chance to console our student body and we’ve begun the grieving as a school community, we too, will conduct an investigation to try to ascertain to what degree school-related bullying may have played a role in Phoebe’s decision,” said Mr Smith.
He said bullying at the school was “insidious and harassing” and knew no bounds.
South Hadley Superintendent Gus Sayer said he was aware of the bullying claims, adding that it was a subject the school had taken seriously, even before the Co Clare girl’s death. He said the school had in recent years implemented policies on bullying and run programmes to alert students to the nature of the problem.
It is understood Phoebe and her family were on a short-term relocation to the US.
She is survived by her mother Anne O’Brien Prince, father Jeremy Prince, sisters Lauren, Tessa and Bridget, and brotherSimon. The family is planning a memorial service in Ireland and have set up a scholarship fund in her name.