Police to investigate Facebook group

US authorities investigating the suicide of an Irish schoolgirl last month are understood to have obtained a grand jury subpoena to allow them to investigate certain discussion groups on Facebook.

Phoebe Prince, a first-year high school student at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts for only a few weeks, took her own life after she was subjected to a sustained campaign of bullying at school and on the social networking site Facebook. A number of students taunted the schoolgirl on the site and also made disparaging comments about her on a memorial page on the site following her death.

Originally from Fanore in Co Clare, Phoebe and her family moved to South Hadley in Massachusetts last September.

Indications of the levels of cruelty of the bullies was evident from malicious messages posted on a Facebook page set up after her death.

The site contained disturbing images and comments relating to Phoebe’s death, and purported to be her own homepage. This site was later closed and messages from a memorial page made private. It is believed the records sought by US police include one page on Facebook entitled “We murdered Prince” along with other discussion groups on the popular social networking site.

Last week, the South Hadley High School confirmed a number of students at the school had been suspended for bullying Phoebe in the days leading up to her tragic suicide. Speaking to the Boston Herald, school superintendent Gus Sayer said the students will face “serious consequences” including potential legal action.

“We have identified a small number of students involved in serious incidents of bullying – very serious – and those students will face the most serious consequences,” he said.

Mr Sayer said those students face long-term suspension, expulsion or criminal prosecution. However, some of the students have yet to go through disciplinary hearings, a process that could take two or three weeks.

The school has said the first time it became aware Phoebe was a victim of bullying was in the week leading up to her death and that it was not aware of any other incidents of bullying until an investigation commenced after the schoolgirl’s death.

Angry parents have also used a Facebook memorial page to organise a picket outside the school demanding the resignation of Superintendent Gus Sayer and high school Principal Daniel Smith.

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