How the suicide of Phoebe Prince -- and its aftermath -- intersects with South Hadley High Schools attempts to address the issue of bullying. Research by Greg Saulmon / The Republican.
Created by masslive on May 4, 2011
Last updated: 07/13/11 at 04:04 PM
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Citing the wishes of Phoebe Prince's parents, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan announces that his office is dropping the statutory rape charge against Austin Renaud.
Longe admits to facts sufficient for a delinquency finding on a misdemeanor criminal harassment charge, which is continued without a finding until she turns 19 in April 2012.
The terms of her probation are consistent with those outlined for her fellow defendant.
Phoebe Prince's mother, Anne O'Brien, delivers a victim impact statement in which she reveals that she met with Longe -- at Longe's request -- on the afternoon of May 4, 2011.
O'Brien says she is "very satisfied" that Longe has offered the "accountability and remorse we have been asking for since January 14, 2010."
At left: Ashley Longe in sworn in for her appearance in Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court, May 5, 2011. Photo by Don Treeger / The Republican.
Admitting to facts sufficient for a delinquency finding on charges of a civil rights violation and disturbing a school assembly, Flannery Mullins is sentenced to probation lasting until she turns 19 in January, 2012.
In her victim impact statement, Anne O'Brien says Mullins made school "intolerable" for her daughter, eventually prompting Phoebe Prince to write that school had become "simply a challenge of making it through each day without harm."
Appearing in Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court, Velazquez admits to facts sufficient to warrant a delinquency charge on a count of criminal harassment.
Phoebe Prince's mother, Anne O'Brien, says the defendant's age allows her to escape "any reasonable sentence of court supervision."
Velazquez's probation will last only two months, until her 18th birthday in July 2011.
At left: Sharon Velazquez in court, May 5, 2011. Photo by Michael S. Gordon / The Republican.
Narey does not plead guilty, but instead admits to facts sufficient for a guilty finding.
She is sentenced to a year of probation, under the conditions that she has no contact with the Prince family, completes 100 hours of community service and does not profit from her role in the case.
Her additional charges of civil rights resulting in bodily injury and disturbance of a school assembly are dropped.
At left: Kayla Narey in Hampshire Superior Court, May 4, 2011. AP pool photo by Gordon Daniels / The Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder accepts prosecutor Steven Gagne's recommendation to the court and sentences Mulveyhill, now 18, to one year of probation. During his probation, Mulveyhill is to have no contact with Prince's family, without their consent; he must complete 100 hours of community service, working with underprivileged or at-risk youth; he must complete his GED; and he may not financially profit from his role in the case.
The prosecution drops charges of charges of statutory rape, violation of civil rights resulting in bodily injury, and disturbance of a school assembly.
At left: Sean Mulveyhill in Hampshire Superior Court, May 4, 2011. AP pool photo by Gordon Daniels / The Daily Hampshire Gazette.
At left: Participants in a candidates forum, March 31 2010. During questioning, School Committee candidate Robert Abrams says of the defendants in the Phoebe Prince case: They were wrong but they're being taken over the coals more than I think is justified."
Photo by Rosie Walunas for MassLive.com.
Saying that his decision is not related to the fallout of the Phoebe Prince case, Smith says he will retire at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.
The new Massachusetts anti-bullying law passed earlier in the year requires all school systems in the state to submit a formal bullying prevention plan by December 31, 2010.
“The important thing to remember is that it’s an ongoing process and it’s not one document and we’re done,” School Committee Chairperson Joanne Jordan says of South Hadley's 40-page plan. “It’s always a work in progress.”
The plan details the definition of bullying, procedures for reporting and investigating bullying, and disciplinary procedures.
At left: A participant at a meeting of South Hadley's Anti-Bullying Task Force holds up a draft of the town's anti-bully policy. Photo by Dave Roback / The Republican.
The suit claimed discrimination based on sexual harassment in an educational institution. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed.
At left: Superintendent Gus Sayer and principal Daniel Smith were named in the suit. File photos from the archives of The Republican.
Coloroso returns to speak at an event organized by Darby O'Brien and Attorney Abigail Williams under the auspices of a group calling itself "Stand Up for Change."
At left: Coloroso speaks at the event. Photo by Greg Saulmon / The Republican.
Defendant Ashley Longe is charged with charged with operating under the influence of alcohol after she is involved in an accident around 1 a.m.
At left: Longe arrives for a court appearance in April, 2010. Boston Herald photo by Kelvin Ma.
South Hadley resident Laurie Narey began receiving threatening messages and suspicious packages after being identified as Kayla Narey's mother in online postings.
But, Narey shared only a common name with the defendant in the Phoebe Prince bullying case.
At the end of July, 2010, Laurie Narey filed a libel suit against Chicopee resident Cody Nallett. The suit alleges that Nallett posted Narey's address and phone number on a number of websites, writing, “when ya’ll start calling make sure to say ‘hi.’”
Nallett allegedly suggested that people call after 2 a.m. She also contacted local and national media, giving Laurie Narey’s address and urging people to harass Narey, according to the suit.
At left: Kayla Narey's yearbook photo.
The suit, which names superintendent Gus Sayer, principal Dan Smith and assistant principal Bill Evans, claims that discrimination based on sexual harassment in an educational institution. At left: Superintendent Gus Sayer, left, South Hadley High School principal Dan Smith, right, and vice principal William Evans were named in the discrimination complaint. File photos by The Republican.
The trio became vocal critics of the way South Hadley schools administrators acted in the wake of Phoebe Prince's suicide.
The suit alleges the school board broke the state’s Open Meeting Law when it voted during executive session Feb. 24 to extend Sayer’s contract by two years.
At left: Luke Gelinas (left) and Darby O'Brien. AP photo.
Spurred by the suicides of Phoebe Prince and 11-year-old Carl Walker Hoover, the Massachusetts legislature passes a law that bans bullying on all school grounds, buses and activities, and mandates that every instance of bullying be investigated by school officials and reported to the parents of the students involved.
At left: Gov. Deval Patrick signs the bill as Carl Walker Hoover's mother, Sirdeaner Walker (far right), looks on.
According to police reports, an officer spotted Renaud’s vehicle stopped along Route 5 at about 3 a.m. Sunday morning with the hazard lights on.
Renaud was taken to the Holyoke Police Station, where he failed a breathalyzer test.
At left: Renaud's yearbook photo.
Close to 100 people attend the meeting and about 20 people speak during a public comment period.
While some speak in support of school administrators, chairman Edward J. Boisselle ejects two critics, including Luke Gelinas.
At left: Gelinas is ejected from the meeting after attempting to read a prepared statement that Boisselle deemed "disrespectful." Photo by Dave Roback / The Republican.
In a late-night discussion thread in the /b/ forum of 4chan.org [warning: site contains graphic sexual and violent content], participants debate whether to seek "lulz" by harassing Prince's friends -- or the defendants. One participant, in an apparent reference to the attack on Prince's memorial page on the day after her death, writes, "Guise, we did this like, a month ago. does nobody remember these things?" Another writes, "yeah, people trolled her memorial page. not. good enough." Still another offers: "Yeah, but we should try and get one of the bullies to commit suicide, DUH."
The websites targeting the female defendants in the Phoebe Prince case disappear after law enforcement officials, responding to inquiries from The Republican, after law enforcement agencies contact California-based Megabyte Computers, whose owner coded the site for an unknown client.
Websites targeting the female defendants in the Phoebe Prince case are modified after The Republican interviews the California-based Web developer who coded the sites. However, each page still contains a torrent of anonymous comments containing slurs, threats, and lewd anatomical references.
The developer, Megabyte Computers owner Steve Stinnett, refuses to identify the client who commissioned the sites.
The domain names were created on March 30, 2010 -- the day after Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel named Kayla Narey, Ashley Longe, Flannery Mullins and Sharon Chanon Velazquez in indictments stemming from an investigation of Prince's suicide.
At left: A screen capture from the website "kaylanarey.com," after the site was modified -- its headline changed from "Kayla Narey is a Bullying Bitch" to "Kayla Narey is a Bully," and other crude language in the introductory text removed.
Guests include Darby O'Brien and Barbara Coloroso.
Luke Gelinas and Barbara Coloroso appear on CBS News to discuss the issue of bullying.
South Hadley High School administrators acknowledge that they have removed a “small group of students” from the school after reviewing the Northwestern district attorney’s investigation and subsequent indictment of six students.
Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel announces the indictment of 6 students -- two boys and four girls -- on charges ranging from statutory rape to criminal harassment.
Scheibel says the conduct of school administrators is not criminal.
At left: Yearbook photos of the defendants. Top, L-R: Sean Mulveyhill, Kayla Narey, Austin Renaud. Bottom, L-R: Ashley Longe, Flannery Mullins, Sharon Chanon Velazquez.
In a 38-0 vote, the Senate passes a bill that bans bullying at school, school events and on buses -- as well as over the Internet. The law also requires school principals to develop plans to prevent bullying, mandates training for teachers and other school employees and orders the state to develop model plans for intervention.
In the midst of an investigation into the circumstances that preceded Phoebe Prince's suicide -- and more than a month before the indictment of six South Hadley High School students in connection with her death -- the school committee votes to approve a two-year contract extension for superintendent Gus Sayer.
At the first meeting of the school system's newly formed Anti-Bullying task force, Edward J. Boisselle tells the audience, “We can make something positive out of something very tragic.”
A protest planned to take place outside the school does not materialize, but a woman in attendance circulates a petition calling for superintendent Gus Sayer to resign.
At left: South Hadley High School principal Daniel T. Smith gets a standing ovation after being introduced at the meeting.
The article carries the title "Suicide in South Hadley: Bullied to death?".
The Selectboard extends its standard 5-minute public comment period to a full hour to accommodate the dozens of residents who turn out.
“We feel that everything gets swept under the carpet. People are looking for answers. People are tired of whatever it is they have been hiding behind,” resident Jeannine C. O’Brien says during her remarks. “They want answers. We want answers.”
At left: David V. Leonard, of South Hadley, speaks at the meeting. Photo by Don Treeger / The Republican.
“We need this bullying legislation, and we need it now,” Gov. Deval Patrick says. “There are a couple of good bills. I have urged the Legislature to move on those bills.”
At left: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. AP photo / file.
A crowd of about 300 attend the meeting; dozens speak during a public comment period. Resident Luke T. Gelinas calls on school administrators to admit they had failed.
Author and bullying expert Barbara Coloroso, who hosted a one-day workshop for the school system in the fall of 2009, returns to South Hadley to speak at the meeting.
A review of South Hadley School Committee minutes shows this is the first discussion of the issue of bullying since Sep. 1, 2009.
At left: South Hadley resident Larry Bay speaks during the open question portion of the South Hadley School Committee meeting, Jan. 27, 2010. Bay said his daughter was bullied at South Hadley High School last year. Photo by Dave Roback / The Republican.
In advance of the School Committee's first meeting following Phoebe Prince's suicide, Chairman Edward J. Boisselle lays out a set of ground rules: During the public comment period, people may discuss bullying -- but they will not be allowed to make specific references to the Prince case. Boisselle claims this guideline is "out of respect to her family and in keeping with the wishes of law enforcement officials investigating the 15-year-old’s apparent suicide."
Citing confidentiality laws, Smith declines to name the students or provide specific details of their discipline.
In a letter to parents, South Hadley High School Principal Daniel T. Smith writes: "Phoebe had a number of close friends at South Hadley High and was well-liked by many others. It is also true that there were several public disagreements between Phoebe and other students in the weeks leading up to her death. These disagreements centered on relationship / dating issues, a rather common event among high school students. School personnel immediately intervened in those disagreements and both counseled and provided consequences as the situations required."
South Hadley High School Principal Daniel T. Smith tells The Republican he hopes to create a task force to look into the issue of bullying at South Hadley High School.
“We have already done a lot of things in the school district, but clearly not enough,” Smith says in reference to the issue of bullying.
About 200 students gather at the school's softball field for a candlelight vigil in Prince's memory. Lindsay A. Rivers, a 17-year-old senior, tells a reporter that Prince was being harassed by other students on the day she died.
“Certain people don’t care,” Rivers says.
Rivers described Prince. “She was beautiful. She loved to read and she had a good vocabulary. Who wouldn’t be jealous of her?”
South Hadley superintendent Gus Sayer tells The Republican, "At this point I know that the kids feel that there was some bullying taking place and it’s quite possible there has been." Sayer adds that Prince had been receiving counseling from school staff because of “adjustment issues” after moving to South Hadley from her native Ireland.
On the same day, a memorial page to Prince set up on Facebook is defaced by a number of users, most of whom appear to be posting under fake accounts. The attack bears many of the hallmarks of a very loosely organized group known as "Anonymous", made up of participants in the forum /b/ on the website 4chan.org [warning: site contains graphic sexual and violent content]. The group has been known to harass the friends and family of teen suicide victims.
After a day during which she endured harassment in the library at South Hadley High School, in the hallway outside of a school assembly, and as she walked home, Phoebe Prince takes her own life in her Newton Street home. She is found by her 12-year-old sister.
Sharon Chanon Velazquez approaches Prince in the high schools cafeteria and tells her, "Stay away from Flannery Mullins's boyfriend," Austin Renaud. (The incident marks the second time Velazquez has targeted Prince -- previously, Velazquez insulted Prince in a school hallway in front of a number of other students.) Later that day, Velazquez confronts Prince in her Latin classroom, intimidating her and using slurs against her. Phoebe reports the encounter to a vice principal, who disciplines Velazquez with a one-day suspension. Source: Statement of facts in court by prosecutor Steven Gagne, May 5, 2011. At left: Sharon Chanon Velazquez. File photo / The Republican.
Despite Prince's previous apology to Narey, the revelation of Prince's relationship with Austin Renaud rekindles Narey's anger and jealousy. Narey posts a derogatory comment about Prince on Facebook. Although she doesn't call Prince out by name, classmates at the high school understand the reference. Prince accesses Facebook and is upset by the comment. Source: Statement of facts in court by prosecutor Steven Gagne, May 4, 2011. At left: Kayla Narey appears in court. AP photo by Gordon Daniels / The Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Upon returning from Christmas break, Mullins learns her boyfriend, Austin Renaud, had a brief relationship with Phoebe Prince. In a gym class on Jan. 6, Flannery Mullins has an outburst during which she says -- referring to Prince -- "Someone oughtta kick her ass." Mullins's behavior is disruptive enough for the gym teach to bring it to the attention of school administrators. The episode becomes the basis of the charge of disrupting a school assembly filed against Mullins. Source: Statement of facts in court by prosecutor Steven Gagne, May 5, 2011. At left: Yearbook photos of Flannery Mullins and Austin Renaud.
After learning that Sean Mulveyhill is dating Kayla Narey, Phoebe Prince approaches Narey at school to confess they she, too, has been seeing the football star. Prince and Narey have a second conversation on December 11. At first, Narey is impressed with Prince's honesty, telling her: "I have more respect for you than for my boyfriend." Narey then sends a terse text message to Mulveyhill: "We're through," she writes. Upset over Narey's reaction, Mulveyhill begins encouraging other students to harass Prince. ----- Source: Prosecutor Steven Gagne's statement of facts in court, May 4, 2011.
Coloroso holds a 5 p.m. workshop for parents. The notice on the South Hadley Schools calendar reads: "Barbara Coloroso, author of "The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander", will provide a workshop for South Hadley parents. Middle school and high school students are encouraged to attend with their parents."
Attendance at the event is light.
Minutes from a July 14 School Committee meeting indicate that Superintended Sayer "expressed his expectation that there would be follow-up at each school" following Coloroso's visit, and that faculty participating in the workshop would provide guidance in developing school-based anti-bullying programs. However, minutes from the school committee meetings in October, November and December of 2009 reflect no discussion of Coloroso's visit. Based on a review of the minutes conducted by The Republican, it does not appear that the School Committee addressed the issue of bullying again until after Phoebe Prince's suicide in January of 2010.
Coloroso later criticizes South Hadley schools administrators for not implementing the strategies discussed at her workshop.
At left: Coloroso speaks at South Hadley High School in January, 2010. Photo by Dave Roback / The Republican.
According to the meeting minutes, Michael E. Smith Middle School Principal Erica Faginski-Stark presents the 2009-2010 Middle School Improvement Plan, which includes revised language concerning bullying for inclusion in the student code of discipline. This is the only reference to the issue of bullying at the meeting, according to the minutes. At left: Erica Faginski-Stark. Dave Roback / The Republican.
At some point in the new school year, Sean Mulveyhill and Kayla Narey renew a relationship they'd had when Mulveyhill was a freshman and Narey was in the eighth grade. Source: Prosecutor Steven Gagne's statement of facts in court, May 4, 2011. ------ At left: Yearbook photos of Sean Mulveyhill and Kayla Narey.
The issue of bullying does not appear in the minutes for the first School Committee meeting of the academic year.
Photo by Greg Saulmon / The Republican.
According to the School Committee meeting minutes: "Michelle Bussiere, SHEA Representative, asked the School Committee to reconsider the proposed use of approximately $12,000 for a district-wide workshop on bullying prevention. She noted that she submitted a letter, signed by more than 50 faculty members, to the Superintendent outlining concerns about the use of funds for this purpose. Ms. Bussiere said that everyone agrees that bullying is a very serious issue, but many faculty members feel that a K-12 workshop would not be effective; some teachers would like to see a program offered at each school with a presentation appropriate for the school’s grade levels. Bill O’Neil, SHEA President, expressed his belief that a one-day workshop was not the best approach and asked the School Committee to consider the faculty’s recommendation. He acknowledged that the Professional Development Committee approved a proposal for bullying prevention training, but said that he does not believe they were aware of the specific workshop plans. Chairman Boisselle thanked Ms. Bussiere and Mr. O’Neil for their input, but explained that the School Committee does not have authority concerning professional development decisions. He suggested that they work with Dr. Sayer and Ms. Sweklo to resolve their concerns. Dr. Sayer said that the presenter would likely address the issue of bullying in general, but expressed his expectation that there would be follow-up at each school and guidance from the faculty about development of school-based programs. He noted that addressing the issue of bullying is one of the School Committee’s priorities, it is included in the Superintendent’s Goals, and the principals have been asked to work with the faculty in each school to address this issue." ---- At left: Michelle Bussier.