SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. - Phoebe Prince, the Massachusetts high school freshman who took her own life after what prosecutors called relentless bullying by classmates, spoke to a school administrator one week before her death about a threat of physical violence, court documents reveal.
The documents, filed in connection with charges against six South Hadley High School students, raise new questions about how much school officials knew about the bullying. They also provide a glimpse into the final, tortured hours of Prince's life shortly before the 15-year-old hanged herself at home Jan. 14.
On Jan. 7, according to the documents, Prince went to a school administrator after learning that one of the defendants, Flannery Mullins, had told fellow students that she was going to "beat Phoebe up" and that she "needed to watch out at break after second block."
The documents do not reveal the official to whom Prince spoke or provide details of the conversation. A witness who was interviewed by investigators said Prince had gone to administrators because she was "scared and wanted to go home." After the meeting, the witness said Prince returned to class, and said that no action was going to be taken and that "she was still going to get beat up."
In a recent interview, Superintendent Gus Sayer said school administrators were not aware of the bullying until Jan. 7, a week before Prince committed suicide. On that day, two teachers reported separate bullying incidents to the principal, Sayer said. In one incident, a student walked into Prince's classroom and yelled at her. In the other, a teacher overheard several students in the cafeteria making remarks about Prince "that appeared to be threatening."
"Even though they weren't made to her directly, he reported that to the principal," Sayer said. The principal "took immediately disciplinary action against both students," Sayer said. He would not say what kind of action was taken, citing school privacy rules. A message left with Sayer on Friday was not immediately returned. The six charged teens, their families and their attorneys have not commented to The Associated Press.
Messages left Friday with the teenagers' lawyers and an attorney representing the Prince family were not immediately returned. District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel has said the inaction of school officials was troublesome but not criminal. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick told WTKK Radio on Friday that "adults did not seem to have acted like adults" in the case. He did not distinguish between school administrators and the parents of the teens charged.
Prosecutors said Prince, an Irish immigrant, endured months of verbal assaults and threats after she briefly dated a popular boy. She was harassed mostly in school, but also on Facebook and through other electronic forms. The insults included being called an "Irish slut," the papers say.
The documents detail in length the final 24 hours of the girl's life. On Jan. 13, Prince told a confidant that school "has been close to intolerable lately." On the day of her death, according to the documents, Prince was in the school library at the same time as three of the charged teens - Sean Mulveyhill, Kayla Narey and Ashley Longe. Witnesses told investigators that Prince was subjected to crude sexual taunts from Longe, including, that day, "Irish whore."
At the end of the school day Jan. 14, witnesses said Prince was again subjected to verbal abuse as she walked out of the building. After Prince had left school grounds, a witness said Longe, as she rode by in a friend's car, threw an empty beverage can at Prince and started laughing.
According to the documents, Prince was crying as she walked home. Investigators said she exchanged several text messages with a friend about two hours before her death, in which she discussed the verbal abuse she had received that day and the ongoing taunts. Later in the day, Prince's body was found hanging in a rear stairwell of her family's apartment.