At a heated school committee last Thursday evening, parents expressed chagrin over unconfirmed reports that the bullying students are facing detentions and suspensions rather than expulsions for the torment they inflicted on Prince, who came to the western Massachusetts town last fall from Ireland.
South Hadley Superintendent Gus Sayer told reporters that a handful of students were involved in the bullying and that “each level of involvement needs to be evaluated in different ways by the principal.”
But at Thursday’s meeting, the school committee refused to respond to inquiries from parents who wanted answers about what action was being taken to punish the bullies and protect the student population.
“Change is not going to happen until we first have accountability,” said Luke Gelinas, a parent of two. “And I’m not talking about accountability from 15 and 16-year-old girls. I’m talking about accountability from grown men who were hired to do a job.”
A bullying expert, Barbara Colonos, had given a training program for South Hadley school staff last fall, during which she recommended that swift and decisive action be taken against bullies.
But now, nearly a month after Phoebe Prince’s suicide, parents and students remain anxious and in the dark about what the school intends to do with the students who taunted Prince on and around the school grounds, on the streets, on Facebook, and on her cell phone.
The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office is continuing its investigation into the matter, but it has remained mum on the status of the probe.