Wednesday, July 21, 2010
This article in Slate about Phoebe Prince and the events leading up to her suicide is an important read.
It focuses less on bullying and more on the fact that, according to this piece, she was troubled. She was involved in a lot more stuff than what you want a fifteen year-old to be doing, including cutting herself, having sex and smoking pot.
Reporter Emily Bazelon describes a variety of factors leading up to Phoebe's death, including her parents' separation and her heart-wrenching sadness at missing her father who stayed behind in Ireland.
The most disturbing part of this is that she was fifteen. It would be hard to handle all the emotions that come with the grief of separation as well as the guilt of risky behavior at such a young age.
It seems that some of the wheels were falling off for poor Phoebe. Perhaps the harshness of peers helped force one or two of those wheels to come loose. The students charged in her death may or may not be responsible but the cruelty of some of their interactions and their extracurricular activities should make us sit up and take notice.
I'm sure there was no way for them to know how vulnerable she already was, but isn't that the case for all of us? When we're being harsh, we don't actually know if we're talking to a "Phoebe Prince" or not.
If there's a lesson here, it's that we need to work harder to smooth over the edges that kids are developing by their early teens. Keeping the wheels on starts early.