Phoebe Prince and Beyond: A Bullying Case Study

Executive Summary

In 2010, after months of verbal, physical, and emotional torment from her peers at school, fifteen-year-old Phoebe Prince committed suicide. Spawning a national outcry for reform, the case led to anti-bullying legislation in Massachusetts and a greater awareness of the dangers of bullying in the age of social media. Although the Prince family settled a case against the town, no tort actions were pursued against the bullies or school district.

With the growth of social media in the past decade, cyber-bullying has become a new source of inescapable torment for victims, as malicious peers continue their abuse beyond the classroom. Although media portrayals traditionally celebrate vigilante justice as an effective response to bullying, in recent years suicide has instead been on the rise.

A closer look reveals important situational factors that may encourage bullying. Psychological theories provide insight into the behavior and motives

of the bystanders (school officials, students, parents) and the bullies involved. A victim’s personal history can also play a role, as did Prince’s history of emotional instability and prior experience with bullying.

Despite the passage of anti-bullying legislation in many states, seeking legal remedies continues to be a problematic endeavor for victims

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