Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Remembering Phoebe Prince

This story just breaks my heart.

In fact, it makes me sick.

A fifteen year old girl from Ireland, Phoebe Prince, moved to my state of Massachusetts and was relentlessly bullied, picked on, verbally abused, harassed and degraded on a daily basis. She believed that her only option was to end her life; that it was her only escape. No one stood up for her. Not even the teachers.

On January 14th, 2010 she hanged herself in her bedroom closet, after a particularly brutal day of being tormented by her abusers.

When I wrote my books, I had to really dig deep and combine the worst of everyone I've ever known to make my *mean girl* characters. I needed to make Kate Endicott so despicable, that no one could ever possibly like or identify with her. What frightens and angers me is that there are real people out there worse than Kate Endicott; worse than my most evil fictional character. Truth really is scarier than fiction.

I am angry for Phoebe. I blame the teens who bullied her. I blame the parents of the bullies. I blame the educators who knew what was going on and turned a blind eye.

How can we, as a society, let this happen? How can we let people harass each other to the point where they feel there is no other option but to end their own lives? Why do we glorify celebrities who are mean and vindictive--young women like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton -- who make putting each other down into a sport? Popular reality shows like the Real Housewives, The Hills, and Tinsley Mortimer's new show High Society all highlight women and girls at their very worst. On a weekly basis in top shows (even American Idol!), people are getting verbally trashed, mocked, teased and berated, and we wonder why teens think it's okay to do the same.

We are creating a culture of "mean people." The nastier you are, the more you get noticed. The bigger the bully, the bigger the following. The teen and pre-teen years are difficult enough to get through on their own. But when you add Facebook and blogs and MySpace and IMs and YouTube, you are turning one individual's personal battles into a voyeuristic, masochistic nightmare for the world to see. I remember things that embarrassed me in high school: a catty comment from a group of girls, an unrequited crush, being teased by some teen-aged boys. But then, like most high school "nightmares," they would blow over, like they always had in the past.

Now, kids are forced to relive their worst moments again and again on YouTube or pictures that get IM-ed throughout the Web. The rumors about their sexuality or their embarrassing moments are not just fodder for the local bullies, but now their embarrassment is out there for the world to see and to judge. When I was in high school and college, the good days were exhilarating; the bad days were horrendous. But for most of us, the bad stuff stopped at our front door. We could leave the teasing, the rumors, the cattiness at school and regroup and gather our strength at home. Now the bullying has become relentless. With Facebook and blogs and emails, there is no escape from the harassment. It has become all-encompassing.

If I had a larger platform, I would make the bullies wear the scarlet letters. I think they should be the ones humiliated on a daily basis. I would make it *uncool* to hurt other peoples' feelings and for the popular kids to be popular because they are actually nice. It goes without saying that for the most part, popular kids are often the cruelest. The *in-crowd* is powerful because they rule with fear. It's the same today as it was ten, twenty, fifty years ago. But the difference now is that teens feel like they have nowhere left to turn. We are reminded again and again that things posted to the Internet are out there forever for the world to see. How scary is that? Especially for teenagers who just want to get through their awkward stages and begin living their lives. What if they think that their lives will be forever tainted? What if the bullies know this and feed off of it?

I am going to try to get a group of young adult authors together to make a stand against this type of bullying, so that someone like Phoebe Prince never has to feel that she is alone, ever. So that she or he never has to think that suicide is the only option; the only way to escape the incessant bullying and meanness.

I am posting this essay written by Phoebe Prince that someone forwarded to me, because I think that her words are powerful. Her life was one that was cut too short. She was never given the opportunity to be heard.

“Phoebe’s death on Jan. 14 followed a torturous day for her, in which she was subjected to verbal harassment and threatened physical abuse,” District Attorney Scheibel said.

Yesterday, nine teens were hit with charges in connection with the case.

Mind Over Matter, Value Essay

Phoebe Prince
Mr. B-G
Block E
Mind Over Matter
Where have today’s values gone? Everyone is so preoccupied with their electronic gadgets to appreciate simple moments like the first snow fall of winter or hearing the words I love you for the very first time. We live in an impersonal electronic society, is that what our values have gone to? We no longer appreciate simple conversations now that we have twitter and face-book. Personally I can’t believe that reading an email would have the same effect as speaking with someone face to face, making a moment.
I get into my pink fluffy onesie my feet tingle as they rub off the soft cushioned fabric. I head downstairs into the kitchen. The walls our heath green with various paintings of vegetables. I live in an old country house with a barn door and all the furnishings to boot. My fathers sitting at the dining table reading a thriller type novel as per usual with a half glass full of white wine next to him. The fire is roaring and the smell of hydrangea’s wafts through the air. I curl up on a chair adjacent from my father making sure to be cosily tucked in near the fire. He puts down his book and says, “Now what is on your mind tonight my dear?” From there on we start a heated debate about almost anything. Our conversations range from sex, drugs and rock and roll to matters of great importance such as ancient religions, politics and criminal justice. No subject is off limits with me and my father.
I click in my glossy silver i-pod into my speakers. I turn up the volume full blast, the walls vibrate from the sound of System of a Down screaming out “Chop Suey”. I’m sitting in my room on my mattress (I broke my bed one evening whilst jumping on it). My walls are covered with doodles, posters, lyrics and memories. I have the lyrics to “I love college” by Asher Roth printed on my walls. I start off by listening to some Arctic Monkeys, they always get me in a good mood. My mix soon turns into some darker music. My i-pod reflects me inside throughout. Its my constant companion. Soon my boyfriend rings me up, “Phoebe c’mon man lets go for a spin, bring your i-pod.” I get into his Civic and he starts driving. The windows are down and the air is blowing through my hair, I plug my i-pod in and the Alex Kidd starts pumping. Alex Kidd is by far my favourite DJ. The words “ecstasy” are throbbing in my ears. Leem starts speeding up we’re going well over sixty miles an hour. We change the music to some Chemical Brothers and The Avalanches. He drops me outside the farm across the road from my house. I now put on “Sandiego Song” by the Coronas.
I value both my i-pod and my nightly conversations with my daddy for both different yet similar reasons. My i-pod is stimulating to my body as I can’t help but move along to the beat, it is also the soundtrack of my life, I have a song for every moment and mood of my day. Without it I would be lost. Its also therapeutic for me I find it easy to relate to the lyrics in music and let them wash away any emotion I’m feeling. As for my nightly conversations with my daddy I treasure them dearly they stimulate my mind to no end, he has increased my knowledge of different dialects, cultures, religions and politics. I learn about the world around me even though I don’t leave my kitchen table.

Both my i-pod and my conversations with my daddy make me think, one with its thoughtful lyrics that I relate to and helps me deal with my own personal problems. My nightly conversations make me think about other people and the world that I’m in. I become more emotionally and intellectually mature through both these activities. Although I still value such items that don’t have such significant effects on me. Sometimes I love just walking around in my favourite heels and feeling like the most confident girl in the world, but mostly I just like sitting back and discussing politics with my dad.


Megan, I would absolutely help you with this. Would you like me to post it on my blog, too (the YA authors getting together part) and see who we can gather?

Carrie, I think that would be amazing. I would love to gather a group of YA authors, like Young Adult Authors Against Bullying (YAAAB) or something to that effect. We definitely need to use this platform to make a change for the better. And to make sure that none of our readers ever feel that they are alone.

Thank you for expressing what a lot of people are feeling- disbelief, heartbreak, disgust, bewilderment at how things like this can happen.
And thank you for thinking of action.
I'm not a big name writer- and my book doesn't come out til next year, but if there's anyway I can help or be involved, I want to be.
I read Phoebe's essay and it breaks my heart.

Megan, count me in on anything you want to do. I'll brainstorm some ideas and send them to you and Carrie.

This is too important to ignore.

Erin Dionne

I remember an afterschool special back in the 70's about bullying. A bunch of us where I lived watched it and many of my friends created a gang like the secret one DOING THE BULLYING. That's what they thought was cool, they completely missed the message. I think the pack instinct is really strong in all of us, as well as the need not to make waves. Being a teen is so hard! And as teen authors, we are in a great position to do something about it. Create awareness... something! I like the idea of YAAAB... perhaps an anthology...
Contact me anytime
Teri Brown

Megan, Pheobe's story breaks my heart too. I've been thinking a lot about bullying for awhile and agree with you that it's different now. We used to be able to escape from it, at least for a little while at home. Teens don't have that option now with being constantly connected with cell phones and the internet. I just commented on Carrie's blog that I'm willing to help out if I can.

What a beautiful idea, Megan. Count me in.

Awesome!!! My sister, Jocelyn, is moving forward with letting national media know. Carrie is trying to secure a website. It's amazing that this whole thing is coming together so beautifully within hours! Imagine the message we can spread when we actually have time to pull everything together.

I think the idea so far is to put together an anthology of our personal stories and donating proceeds to an anti-bullying fund or creating a fund of our own. This is a great way of giving a voice to victims of bullying and letting them know that they are not alone!

I'll keep you posted and thank you, thank you, thank you for your involvement.

I would definitely help with this. Navigating adolescence was hellish for me. Middle school and high school were not fun. I'm not sure that bullies can ever be cured, but I'd love to send a message to kids who are bullied -- to tell them that some day it won't be so bad, that adolescence is a brief, sometimes awful time, but getting out of it can be incredibly liberating. And that once you've been through that, you so few things in life will faze you.

I've seen kids bully others on Bebo and Facebook and it's ugly. Teachers and parents can make all the difference by at least monitoring the situation and lending a sympathetic ear. A group of MG/YA writers who were there for kids who are bullied would be incredible.

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This story is heartbreaking, as is the loss of a writer with so much potential. Currently, as a 12th grader, we're studying the efforts to fight bullying, to put an end to it.

So, it's amazing to see authors, all of who I look up to, banding together to put an end to this.

I've posted your blog on my facebook and can only hope people realize their mistakes and make an effort to stop bullying.

I wish I could have known Phoebe Prince... she seemed like the kind of person I would have been good friends with. I also wish i could have known her, if only to help her.

R.I.P Phoebe.

I've posted this on my FB, and am here if anything can be done. I'm not a YA author but I have a big mouth.

I was bullied in school too. I ended up dropping out rather than deal with the persecution.

I am here to do whatever it takes.

Thank you so much for posting this. I'm remembering things I wish I didn't have to, but also remembering why I wanted to write for and about teens in the first place. Isolation is deadly, and if there's anything we can do to let kids know they're not alone, we will have made a huge difference. Count me in on whatever you do; I'd love to be involved.
Amy Reed

Very well done Megan...It was a beautiful tribute...

To me the saddest part was she had no one to turn where to run...its not like she was the where are the Bully Support Groups on faceboook or twitter for teens to easily find & connect to...To get answers, reassurance etc...Maybe she will be the last...

Megan, I would really love to be involved in whatever you do. I identify too much with Phoebe's story, and that has so much to do with why I started writing. Please keep me posted.

You make an excellent point that we've lost our civility. Rather than being shunned for their disrespectful behavior, certain celebrities, politicians and media types are considered way cool because they're willing to take a discussion to the lowest common denominator. The kids learn from adults.

I'd love to be part of this. Let me know what I can do to help.

I definitely think as a culture we need to stop making it ok to treat people like that, and to show some basic human decency to those around us. It is appalling to me to see shows get high rating when the people hit each other so hard with words and actions and then kids think that's an ok way to behave. It's NOT! I will help you in any way I can to make sure everyone, young kids AND adults know that we will tolerate this behaviour no more.

As a child, I was was taught "do unto others as you would have done unto yourself". What ever happened to that?

I have a 9year old little girl who I've tried to teach that lesson to. She gets it and I am greatfull that she does. The hardest part for me is what to say to her when she comes home with tears in her eyes because she's been picked on all day. What do I say when she asks my other girls in her class aren't being taught the same lesson?

Too many kids are being raised by tv's and computers. Too many parents just don't care and too many teachers turn a blind eye.

I'm not a YA author, but I am a book review blogger and would be willing to help with this cause too.

It's time we put a stop to this crap!

Have a great day every one!
Kate (aka YzhaBell's BookShelf)

I probably couldn't help in any material way with the campaign, as I'm an unwashed unpublished nobody, but I wanted to add that bullying has gone factorial from what it used to be--and it was always bad. Everyone's seen _A Christmas Story_ and thinks that's the worst that it "used to be," but no. At the beginning of seventh grade, I caught the attention of a boy who was Wanted by a popular girl. He took me to a school dance, and after that, the bullying began. This girl had a twin sister, and she and her sister recruited the entire junior high school to zap me. The teachers and counselors said, "Stick up for yourself," and my mother had useless advice such as "Charm them! When they say that about you, smile and do a little dance." Her advice backfired, as the "sure, you're right, I AM a freak" dance at my locker became a riot scene that pressed me against the locker as more people tried to see what was happening, and the counselor and coach got after ME and said I was "inciting" and "trying to get attention." After that I was completely on my own in school. I arranged to work in the library during lunch, as it was impossible for me to enter the cafeteria unmolested. The boy backed off, thinking there must be something seriously wrong with me. My mother FINALLY listened to me after I came home with my notebooks and textbooks shredded and my dress torn. She went to the principal. *He* knew of me because I had represented his school at several UIL contests and citywide events, and I had brought home the trophies in drama and debate and math. He went to the counselor and told her to stop those girls. Amazingly . . . in a few days they were solicitous of me and wanted to sit by me or give me things. Of course I was wary and figured I was being suckered in, so I kept my distance. But that was a very psyche-rending year. I know better than to trust people (I have to really analyze someone's agenda and motives) and I don't rely on ANYone for help, as it's typically charged with what's in it for them. I have always felt unworthy and have known I will ultimately be exposed as the loser. I'm sure that at least in part this is due to my bullied year. It did make me stronger and more of a nonconformist (who would want to be like THEM, after all? And they believed themselves to be great people!) But some people would not be able to stay strong.

What I wonder is--how do the bullies think of those years? Do they remember themselves as just wild and crazy fun pranksters? Do they not remember it at all? Do they )still( believe that the bullied ones "deserved it" and "brought it on themselves" and "could have changed"? Do they ever feel bad--have they repented? OR have they completely rationalized it as "what kids do"? I would never be able to live with myself had I been a bully. In fact, I make it a point even now to pick up the wounded sparrows and give them a chance, and a lot of those people have been exceptionally special over the years.

Perhaps school librarians could get involved as well. We provide a safe haven for so many kids - a place to go when the lunchroom is overwhelming or threatening, or a place to hang out after school until the crowds thin. I see it year after year. During the month of March alone, I had over 1800 students come to the library during lunch vs. the student cafeteria (6 lunch periods per day). The upside is that these students who start out alone at the beginning of a school year very often find their niche and a circle of friends within the school library. I do whatever I can to foster this - video games, board games, Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments, book clubs, anime clubs, crafts, etc. If you can provide a welcoming and friendly environment with food and humor, the kids will come. They just want a place where they feel like they belong, and know that someone cares.

I'd definitely be interested in a YA author effort. Or maybe it should be children's-YA? The years I was bullied worst were probably more like fourth-to-sixth grade.

I am a parent of two teenagers. This is an outrage! Phoebe died a needless death. This could have definitely been prevented. School administrators and some teachers at South Hadley High School should be at least fired! Zero tolerance! The administrators and teachers of this school have permitted a hostile environment to evolve, and they never took corrective action. The highest priority and sense of urgency should be on everyone’s radar when it comes to the safety and welfare of our children. The teachers and school administrators are responsible for educating our children and providing a safe environment to learn. After a thorough investigation, I believe some of these South Hadley school administrators, teachers and parents have accountability and should pay by way of the criminal and civil court system. What disgusts me the most is that these criminal students still bullied Phoebe on her memorial websites. Where is the remorse for the death of Phoebe and her family from the parents of these bullies? Where is the remorse from the South Hadley High School Superintendant and Principal? Where is the remorse from the South Hadley School teachers? Human rights, civil rights and the life of Phoebe Prince has been violated and destroyed. All direct and indirect parties involved including students and adults should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I applaud the district attorney and hope she has the courage to bring justice to this horrific crime. This is tragic. May Phoebe Prince rest in peace...

I'm not a published author but do write YA and I'd love to help. As the mother of a young daughter, the thought bullying and cyberbullying make me nauseous and outraged. There has to be a zero tolerance policy at the school and community level but also at home. Parents of bullies need to be accountable. I can tell you that if I found out my daughter was being the bully, we'd be having a serious chat.

Feel free to take this comment off if it takes away from your beautiful post here and I do hope your efforts are successful. We, and our youth, are seeing a lot of ugliness in politics and there seem to be bully elements there as well (talk radio, et al) where the human element and The Golden Rule seem to be unheard of. So sad.

I, too, am a book review blogger.

And I'd be more than happy to post things about it via myspace & facebook!/profile.php?ref=profile&id=100000193981272

Thank-you for honoring Phoebe's memory.

Her essay showed so much intelligence and potential - what could have motivated her to not see a way out? She seemed so level-headed and mature. Of course the bullying is the main contributing factor as we well know, however I am still trying to search, as we must all be, to understand what could have driven her, compelled her, to see no other choices.

Did she not feel comfortable to talk to her dad about options?
Was her real father, who she probably missed deeply, still in Ireland? W

as she feeling she had nobody to discuss with the taunts that must have followed her after her alleged affairs with the 2 boys? not having other girlfriends to discuss what had happened and how she was feeling and how they had violated her trust?

We will never know the answers, maybe a combination of things, but what a waste of a life that surely would have been filled with great potential. So sad.

It was said that her guardians did approach school officials about what was going on, however, they did nothing about it.

If that's true, we need to find a way to get our school officials to be tougher on situations like this.

Megan--thanks for posting this, and for organizing YAAAB. I'm a member on the Facebook page.

Have you read Courtney Summers' amazing books about mean girls and bullying? They're astonishingly eye-opening to what's really going on out there. There's also a great discussion of mean girls and bullying on her blog:

This story makes me so unutterably sad and I'm very glad I found my way here from the YAAAB Facebook page you have set up. Phoebe Prince could have stepped from the pages of my book - she *is* Hep, who hanged herself for the very same reasons.

I've already told you I'll do whatever I can to help. Somehow, we must let the victims of bullies know that they are absolutely not alone - that every single one of us will reach out our arms to them.

Very happy to see blogs post on this matter. When I first started posting entries on the matter there were no others that I could find. Spread the word because it's been a lonely road trying to counter the many statements of those who deny anything bad happened to Phoebe or who point the finger at her.

There are more of her writings from her english class posted on my blog. The one I am really interested in shows up as a blank on that page but if anyone has a way to retrieve it that would be great. There's a reason why that one particular entry was removed and it may well hold a key to what eventually happened to her.


My heart aches when daylight breaks
Another year has passed
My heart beats fast
I wish I could tell you
What you mean to me
For the happiness you gave me
Has set me free.

The tears I cry
My mind says why
For each day that breaks
I try to stay awake

I think of a place
So beautiful to be
Where angels surround you
And God says you are free

I wonder to myself
As the days go by
Why did I come here
I don’t know why

All the while
You sat there and smiled
Deep was your eyes
A moment of paradise

When the night falls
And the day breaks
And all the while my heart still aches

I am going to that place
So beautiful to be
Where angels surround you
And God says you are free

OK so i read through her essay... almost in tears.. she is so much like me.. i can relate to her so well. Especially with the music part, that made me wet in the eyes, and i never cry. I would be honored to write for you and your blog, the story of this girl

OK so i read through her essay... almost in tears.. she is so much like me.. i can relate to her so well. Especially with the music part, that made me wet in the eyes, and i never cry. I would be honored to write for you and your blog, the story of this girl has touched my soul like no other before it. I was bullied as well and can relate to that too. Such a horrible loss of a perfect soul to such jealous children, their parents, and the people who turned the blind eye. I would have stood up for her, if only I could turn back time.

Megan please contact me (Renee Garza from The EGEMZ Show and Gossip)at or 9728157643. I would like to help out in anyway.

This is nothing new. This sort of bullying has been going on for centuries. We talk about doing something about it, but, in the end, nothing happens no matter what you do.

I was savagely bullied and lived in fear of daily humiliation when I grew up. I grew so despondent at one point that I put a gun to my head, but was too big a coward to pull the trigger. No one did anything to stop the suffering I endured and I remain damaged to this day by so many years of torment.

The only thing I have concluded about this is that bullying is part of human nature, particularly at certain ages. It's worse among girls because they tend to use more sophisticated techniques. Boys are physically abusive toward other boys most of the time. Girls are manipulative (read "Odd Girl Out"). Teachers don't intervene because they feel that this only makes the dynamic worse in the long run, though I often felt that they couldn't have made things any worse for me and desperately wanted to be protected when I was growing up.

This isn't a problem that can be fixed with an acronym, or good intentions. Kids need a deep level of education which they can relate to, and that requires money, planning, and people with the power to implement changes. I'm guessing we're not going to see any of that any time soon.