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What Role Do Adults Play in Bullying?

By Sierra Black |

100330_bulle_princeexThe suicide of Phoebe Prince after she was extensively bullied by her peers at a Massachusetts high school has reverberated through the country.

Schools are examining their recess rules to control bullying. MySpace and Facebook are being freshly scrutinized with an eye to the dangers posed by peers. And yesterday, nine of the students involved in bullying Phoebe were charged with criminal offenses.

Today, Slate’s Emily Bazelon asks, “What about the adults who knew what was happening?

While no adults were charged with crimes related to Phoebe’s death, it’s clear that some knew the girl was being bullied. School officials say they had reports of bullying in the week before her suicide, and that they dealt with the students involved quickly.

The district attorney’s report says there was a three-month campaign of bullying at the school, involving at least the nine teenagers charged. Did the school administrators really only find out about it in the final days?

The D.A. also reports that some of the bullying took place on campus in front of faculty members and staff. The day she died, Phoebe was bullied in the school library in front of several students and at least one faculty member. No one reported the incident to the administration until after her suicide.

The school has assembled an anti-bullying task force, that meets with what Bazelton calls “dwindling numbers”. They’ve eschewed bringing in an outside expert to help with bullying problems. Several of the students charged in Phoebe’s death left the school after her suicide, but others were attending classes this week.

The principal, teachers and administrators have received a lot of support from their community, many of whom are appalled at the image their small town has gotten in the media after this tragedy.

But to the handful of critics, the new criminal charges are a welcome opportunity to more fully understand what happened and prevent it happening again. That means dredging up not only the reality of what the bullies did, but what the adults failed to do to stop them.

Should the school administrators and teachers have done more to help Phoebe and curb the bullying? What could they have done? How should they be held accountable now?

Here are some great tips on how to tell if your kid is being bullied.

Photo: Slate

More by Sierra Black:

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Did You Really Call That Kid A D-bag?

The End of Play

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About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “What Role Do Adults Play in Bullying?

  1. jim_p says:

    If my experience growing up is anything to go by, the grownups aren’t bothered by this sort of thing unless it inconveniences them directly. Disrupt a class, and they’ll deal with it. Disrupt another student’s life, meh…

  2. [...] and all adults need to take charge and protect our kids.   I can’t bear the thought of another Phoebe [...]

  3. Susan says:

    Comments: I think it is sad if parents know what is happening. You have to take these things seriously. If it were my child, I’d be knocking on those kids parents doors and we work this out as mature adults. To many times these kids are become bully’s because 1. we don’t discipline these kids for wrong doing, we’re scared we’ll get in trouble if we whip those behinds. 2. Dr’s are to easy to put these young kids who already don’t know how to handle stress or life, we give them medicine to cope with things. Hello… you don’t give a drunk more liquor you try and sober that person up. I just don’t understand what is happening with these kids. I was bullied in school but knew how to handle it. These kids can’t handle it if they are given medication to basically shut them up. I pray for this family and others that are dealing with this that they find comfort in knowing hopefully we can put an end to this sad situation so another child don’t have to take their life for some kid that reaching out the wrong way.

  4. [...] But what should we do? A few weeks ago the D.A. investigating Prince’s death indicted 9 of the students who bullied her on an array of charges ranging from civil rights violations to statutatory rape. Ever since, questions have been swirling about what responsibility the adults involved bore. [...]

  5. Michelle Smith says:

    Bullying is a common part of life for young people, but the emotional distress that comes from it often leads victims to think about suicide an option two to nine times more likely to be considered by bully victims, according to studies by Yale University. As a parent the most important thing is my child’s safety. This blog covers how a mother is dealing with a heartbreaking experience and how you can better protect your kids. This is the link:

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