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Torturing by word

Local educators react to bullying indictments

March 30, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Although it happened 50 miles away, a bullying-suicide case in South Hadley is sparking some serious concerns among local school-watchers.

"As soon as somebody waves the flag that they're being persecuted, you need to investigate," said School Committee member David DiGregorio. "You can do as much damage with a word as you can with a gun."

He's referring to the fact the Northwestern District Attorney's Office indicted nine young people Friday on an array of charges stemming from the January suicide of Phoebe Prince, 15. The teenager hanged herself after allegedly being repeatedly harassed in person and online, threatened with physical abuse and possibly statutorily raped — which could mean consentual sex with a minor — over the course of three months, according to the Associated Press.

DiGregorio said he'd heard about the case en route home from work shortly before this newspaper called him Monday, describing the case bluntly as "a little girl who killed herself because other people tortured her." To him, the Legislature's recent passage of an anti-bullying law provided schools with a necessary tool to address the issue, but he would also support making it stronger. In a case like this, for example, he'd push for homicide charges as well.

See Wednesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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