Phoebe Prince, the 15-year-old who killed herself after relentless taunting, spent her final days in fear of girls who had threatened to beat her up, according to the first official accounts released in a case in Massachusetts that gained wide attention last week, when six students were charged with felonies.
Prince, who entered South Hadley High last fall after moving from Ireland, was in emotional torment after weeks of being called an “Irish slut” and other names, and also became increasingly worried about the loudly voiced physical threats, students told investigators. She told a friend that she was “not a tough girl” and “would not know how to fight,” and at one point she asked friends to surround her as she walked in the hall.
The documents were prepared by the district attorney for the Northwestern District in Massachusetts in support of charges against three 16-year-old students. They provide the first detailed accounts of verbal abuse and physical threats that prosecutors say were heaped upon Prince right up to the afternoon of Jan. 14, when she walked home crying and hanged herself from a stairwell.
They also describe evidence suggesting that some teachers and administrators had known for weeks about the harassment but failed to stop it, a contention that school officials have disputed.
The 40 pages of documents summarize the alleged crimes of the three girls who were arraigned Thursday in Hadley — Ashley Longe, Flannery Mullins and Sharon Chanon Velazquez. They have been charged as youthful offenders with felonies including violation of civil rights and stalking, and have also been charged with similar crimes under juvenile laws.
Three other students — Sean Mulveyhill, 17, Kayla Narey, 17, and Austin Renaud, 18, — have been charged as adults, including charges of statutory rape against the two male students.
The accused students have pleaded not guilty.
“When all the details become known, I am certain that my client will be cleared of these charges,” Colin Keefe, a lawyer for Velazquez, said Thursday in a statement.
The documents did little to end the disagreement over how much school officials knew about Prince’s hazing. Her parents say that before the start of school in September, Prince’s aunt told an assistant principal that Phoebe had been bullied at school in Ireland and might need help, according to the parents’ spokesman, Darby O’Brien.
In an interview Thursday, Gus Sayer, the superintendent of schools, responded to the parents’ assertion and to the documents, which say that teachers were nearby when Velazquez yelled epithets at Prince in the lunchroom, for example, and cite students who say they reported other incidents to the authorities.
He said that Prince had initially thrived at school but that after an incident in November, officials realized that she had become unhappy, and started monitoring her.