Could school officials have done more to prevent the suicide of Phoebe Prince? Yes, says a leading cyber-bullying expert.
Nine Massachusetts teenagers have been charged with involvement in a months-long campaign of bullying that led to the suicide in January of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince. Cyber-bullying expert Ross Ellis, founder and chief executive officer of Love Our Children USA (the national nonprofit leader on child violence prevention), says that schools also need to be held accountable.
Ross Ellis: The cyber-bullying suicide of Phoebe Prince is heartbreaking -- and cases like hers are cropping up more and more each day. Schools are dropping the ball here. I would love to see schools take responsibility and have curricula about bullying and cyber-bullying. They really desperately need it.
A mom just called me from Missouri saying she went to her school today to talk to the guidance counselor about her child being bullied. The counselor said, "You're not going to like what I have to say, but: You just have to suck it up." This is the wrong answer!
I don't necessarily think school officials should go to jail, but they should be held accountable. Bullying and cyber-bullying are happening in almost every school in the country. When are they going to take action?
I think the principals are afraid to act on bullying and cyber-bullying because they're worried that doing something and admitting there's a problem will damage the school's reputation. But ignoring the problem will do much more damage. South Hadley High School -- where Phoebe Prince went to school -- certainly doesn't have a very good reputation right now. Neither do any of the other schools where a student has killed themselves over bullying or cyber-bullying. Parents are afraid to send their kids to these schools -- and I don't blame them!
Schools need to help make cyber-bullying stop TODAY, and stop ignoring the problem. Even if they don't have the funds for an anti-bullying program, they need to at least carve out a half-hour or an hour a week to focus on this epidemic. Bullying is not a "rite of passage" -- it's a crime ... and it's killing our kids!
Each cyber-bullying suicide like Phoebe's is yet another wake-up call. When will schools finally listen?
Do YOU think schools should be held accountable for cyber-bullying? Why or why not?