Who Failed Phoebe Prince?

High school was hell for 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, but it didn’t have to be deadly.

By Alyssa Giacobbe | Boston Magazine |

Yet the story that some tell is that Phoebe’s parents were separating, and that Anne had retreated to the U.S. to be near her sister, Eileen, who lives in Springfield with her husband, John, and their two children. Anne rented a duplex on Newton Street in South Hadley, got a job as a junior high English teacher, and bought the girls a small white dog.

At first, Phoebe seemed to enjoy being the new girl among a group of teenagers who had known each other for most of their lives. She was beautiful: pale and petite, with wavy brown hair, a wide smile, and expressive blue eyes. She dressed for fun and in full color; she liked T-shirts and miniskirts. And the accent — the other kids were always trying to get her to say something so they could hear the lovely lilt. “Phoebe was undeniably gorgeous,” says Eadaoin Larkin, a close girlfriend back home in Ireland. “She had a great sense of humor, she was fun to be around, she was a very smart girl, and she was very passionate…. Girls envied her.” Boys, says Eadaoin, loved everything about her.

“She got popular quick,” says friend Tara Berard, a South Hadley freshman. “All the guys wanted to talk to Phoebe. Everyone wanted to talk to Phoebe.” Phoebe went with her new friends to football games and movies. She listened to techno music and joked about how everyone in Ireland smells like cabbage. She talked of starting a school rugby team. “Phoebe had an opinion of everything; she was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,” says friend Katie Gingras, a fellow freshman. “She thought the U.S. was one of the best places, but I know she missed all of her friends in Ireland a lot, too.”

A couple of months into the fall semester, Phoebe began a brief relationship with Sean Mulveyhill, a senior who captained the football team and was a local sports legacy. Popular and accustomed to female attention, Sean was something of a score. He had dated (and some say never stopped dating) Kayla Narey, a pretty blond junior, herself a star athlete. Shortly before Phoebe’s 15th birthday, in November, Sean reunited with Kayla, and suddenly Phoebe found herself on the wrong side of the popular crowd.

That’s when the name-calling began, according to the authorities, who conducted a three-month investigation into Phoebe’s death. Stupid bitch, Irish slut, Irish whore, ho. Fucking ho. “Close your legs,” Ashley Longe, a round-faced junior, allegedly spat. For more than two months, the comments came almost daily. Phoebe’s once-cheerful gait along her regular route — through the library, past the cafeteria, and out the heavy metal front doors toward home — soon became a shuffle. She laughed less and less, for fear of attracting even more attention. “Whore,” authorities say Ashley called out. “I hate stupid sluts.”

Ashley and Sean had been friends since childhood. Though they had never dated, Ashley was proud of their friendship. And unlike Kayla, a high-honors student and all-star field hockey player, Ashley did have something to prove. She was average. She was never going to be as pretty or smart as either Kayla or Phoebe.

Flannery Mullins, a high-honors sophomore and decorated equestrienne, soon had some business of her own with Phoebe. Phoebe had been talking, maybe more, to Flannery’s sometime-boyfriend, junior Austin Renaud. Flannery began to corner Phoebe in the bathrooms and chase her through the halls, yelling “Irish slut” and warning Phoebe to stay away from her boyfriend, authorities say. She was overheard saying “that freshman Phoebe girl” “should get her ass kicked.” Flannery’s best friend, Sharon Chanon Velazquez, a junior, offered to punch Phoebe in the face.      

  • Mark

    Forty years ago, I was bullied in elementary school but it was neither organized nor nearly as intense as what Phoebe endured. Despite falling crime rates, today’s society is far more coarse and dangerous. The students who bullied Phoebe to her death, which they then celebrated, are criminal psychopaths who are probably beyond redemption. Though young, they knew exactly what they were doing and deserve stiff prison sentences. In a sort of karmic justice, the bullies and their families have now been intensely bullied. This, too, is wrong. There’s plenty of blame to go around here, from negligent parents to clueless administrators. Having a well-developed policy of identifying this behavior early on, protecting the victim, and punishing and educating bullies in civilized behavior, is the key to eradicating this scourge. It shouldn’t even be called “bullying”; it is potentially deadly, emotional torture as evil as serial killing. And, bullies, make no mistake: you may be riding high now, but in the long run, your lives will be at least as miserable as those of your victims.

  • Mark

    A lawyer for the bully-torturers has adopted a blame-the-victim strategy, suggesting that Phoebe was indeed a tramp who was previously suicidal. This behavior violates canons of professional legal ethics and should have gone out of style after Alton Maddox and Vernon Mason were disbarred for using these tactics in an infamous rape case many years ago.

  • JM

    Amazing how the young men at this school played the women. These mean girls were mad at the wrong person and now must live with this tragedy. It’s never worth killing yourself, or hurting others, over a boy, ladies. These guys are rotten players. Nice work Boston mag in getting to the heart of the matter.

  • Doreen

    So the parent should have spoken out… Well I did when my children were being bullied in a Rhode Island school and nothing was done about it. I ended spending my life savings to send my children to

  • Doreen

    So the parent should have spoken out… Well I did when my children were being bullied in a Rhode Island school and nothing was done about it. I ended spending my life savings to send my children to

  • Shawna

    Dr. Susan Spinks, now Dr. Susan Topper was relentlessly bullied at UMass Medical School by 3 doctors, including Dr. Carol Waksmonski and Dr. Peter Levine. The bullying was a mobbing event to scapegoat her for bad patient results that were due to the malpractice of the intern and supervising physicians. She had to take time off and nearly killed herself.

    This malignant medical climate is what you pay for with your money and your lives. Stop workplace bullying and mobbing at UMass Medical Center.

  • Shawna

    Dr. Susan Spinks, now Dr. Susan Topper was relentlessly bullied at UMass Medical School by 3 doctors, including Dr. Carol Waksmonski and Dr. Peter Levine. The bullying was a mobbing event to scapegoat her for bad patient results that were due to the malpractice of the intern and supervising physicians. She had to take time off and nearly killed herself.

    This malignant medical climate is what you pay for with your money and your lives. Stop workplace bullying and mobbing at UMass Medical Center.

  • Shawna

    Dr. Susan Spinks, now Dr. Susan Topper was relentlessly bullied at UMass Medical School by 3 doctors, including Dr. Carol Waksmonski and Dr. Peter Levine. The bullying was a mobbing event to scapegoat her for bad patient results that were due to the malpractice of the intern and supervising physicians. She had to take time off and nearly killed herself.

    This malignant medical climate is what you pay for with your money and your lives. Stop workplace bullying and mobbing at UMass Medical Center.

  • Lesley

    Reading this article brought back so many painful memories. I grew up in Pennsylvania and was bullied in junior high because I didn’t “fit the mold.” I agree with the comment below..negligent parents and clueless administrators are partly to blame! If I had a nickel for every teacher that chose to look the other way while I was harassed by classmates…
    I’m now living in the San Francisco Bay Area and after reading this article all I can think of is, ‘thank God my kids are surrounded by well-educated, first generation immigrants and thriving in a school culture with tolerance and diversity at its very core.”