Comments on an online news site, below the story of Massachusetts District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel “throwing the book” at nine students for bullying Phoebe Prince to the point of suicide, show the expected public reaction: 90% of the comments are strongly in favor of the various criminal charges against the students, while 10% of the comments offer naïve notions that the victim was somehow to blame, or was somehow “different” enough to be responsible for her own death. “Lots of people are bullied, but they don’t kill themselves,” commented one reader, suggesting Phoebe was mentally off an acceptable balance– therefore an aberration that the other students, doing only what comes naturally, had unfortunately met up with and now were being made to suffer the consequences.
Phoebe was new to the high school this year, new to the area, and in fact to the nation, being from an Irish immigrant family. A relationship with an older male football star (who possibly was taking advantage, since he is charged with statutory rape) got things started, and led some of the other girls to assault Phoebe with calls of “Irish slut” and “whore” on a daily basis for the past three months. Following a “tortuous day” that the DA detailed in her press release, after Phoebe was verbally assaulted in the halls, in the library (with a teacher present), and then followed home with more catcalls and a bottle of juice thrown at her from a car, Phoebe hanged herself in her closet.