Who Failed Phoebe Prince?
High school was hell for 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, but it didn’t have to be deadly.
School “has been close to intolerable lately,” Phoebe texted a friend the next week. By now it was Wednesday, January 13. Phoebe told her friend she’d been accused of “taking away” another girl’s boyfriend, that the threats were getting physical, and that even Sean and his friends wouldn’t leave her alone. She had been to see the SHHS adjustment counselor, Sally Watson-Menkel, as well as the school nurse.
The following day in the school library, Phoebe looked up to see Ashley, Kayla, and Sean across the room. Ashley loudly taunted her while the reunited couple made a big show of groping and kissing, authorities say. Beside Phoebe’s name on the library sign-in sheet, someone had penciled in “Irish bitch…is a cunt.”
After school, Phoebe walked past a group of students who’d gathered outside the auditorium. They buzzed with end-of-day energy and talked about the school’s winter cotillion, which was scheduled for Saturday night. “Here she comes,” Sean reportedly told Ashley, nodding in Phoebe’s direction. “Whore,” Ashley allegedly shouted on cue as Phoebe passed. The crowd fell silent. “Whore,” Sean said. Ashley said, “Why don’t you just open your legs?” Kayla started to laugh. Phoebe kept on moving.
Home was a half-mile away, along well-trafficked Newton Street. Just beyond school grounds, a car slowed alongside Phoebe as she walked. From the passenger seat, authorities say Ashley hurled an empty energy-drink can. Phoebe, crying, kept walking. “Whore!” Ashley yelled, as the car sped off.
AROUND 4:30 P.M., Lauren Prince, 12, came home from school to find Phoebe hanging by a scarf from a beam in the apartment’s stairwell, dressed in the clothes she’d worn to school. The orange scarf was the one Lauren had given Phoebe for Christmas.
“When I first found out, I didn’t know how to react. I was in shock,” says Katie, who had last seen Phoebe only hours earlier, at her locker. “See you tomorrow,” Phoebe had said.
Yet Katie understood Phoebe’s unhappiness: She, too, had been bullied at school and knew the feeling of “everybody hating on us; that’s why we were so close.” She says, “At South Hadley, for me it was hell,” and describes being verbally attacked and slammed against lockers. “We could talk about the same thing…. I knew things were not good [with Phoebe], but I didn’t know really how bad they were.”
Phoebe’s enemies didn’t share Katie’s despair. The word around town is that upon hearing the news, one of them merely laughed. Sharon was later overheard saying that she wasn’t the only one who caused Phoebe to kill herself, authorities say, and actually, she didn’t care that Phoebe was dead. Some were seen making gestures that mimicked hanging from a noose.