THe Capitol City of the Denial Nation

I’ll be traveling the next two weeks…but if opportunity presents itself…maybe on long , long flights…I hope to add to the Blog.

Phoebe’s tragedy is such an important lesson: we cannot allow those who failed her in life…to flail at her memory or hide behind feeble excuses now… just to cover their culpability. Many other children remain in their “care.”  Moreover…what happens in this  South Hadley case will reverberate…or not…throughout other communitues and other school systems.

There will either be concerted change or…continued complacency. We will help that choice be made by continuing to be a voice for Phoebe.

It seems almost every day we read of another child lost to this same type of brutal campaign of Bullying. When we stand with Phoebe, we stand with them too , and all those who today feel alone, unable to cope, and without any authority figure to offer solutions or solace.

Ignorance is no excuse among professionals; tolerating thug-like behavior in public schools where attendance is mandatory and escape for victims, barely manageable, is of itself… professionally intolerable.  Why should the victim have to flee and disrupt his/her education because the school refuses to provide  sanctions to the Bullies…and therefore a safe learning environment for all?  Why is the onus placed on the VICTIM, first by the Bullies and then by apathetic, enabling staff and faculty?

A three month campaign in a contained school atmosphere , among a close knit school community…means either outright professional neglect or downright apathy.


Here’s a bold idea.

Superintendents…SUPERVISE the learning enviorment in your schools.

Teachers, educate yourselves about Bullying.

South Hadley, embrace this tragedy for a learning experiment and lead…not have to be dragged forward…as examples of what should and should not be done to save our children’s lives and psyches from this current intolerable cycle of Bullying.

Right now, in my opinion,  you look like the capital city of the Denial Nation.

It’s a pitiful sight.


Teachers, Apathy, and Phoebe’s Trail of Tears?

“Nearly three months after 15-year-old Prince took her own life after a slew of relentless bullying attacks, the president of the South Hadley teachers union yesterday issued a strident defense of high school staffers, saying many were “shocked” to learn of the extent of the teen’s alleged abuse.

“Some in the media have painted a picture of South Hadley High School as a school out of control – a place where everyone knew of the bullying and no one did anything about it,” Bill O’Neil, head of the South Hadley Education Association and a teacher at the high school, wrote in a letter to the Herald. “That image is just plain wrong.”

They were “SHOCKED!” SHOCKED , Bill says.


Okay, Bill…let’s review.

For some reason, last Fall, Gus Sayer and his administrative Goodfellas decide to spend money to call in a Bullying expert. Now, maybe cash was just overflowing the school coffers there in South Hadley, and the administration just couldn’t think of any other way to spend it…but if not, logical minds might infer you all knew you had a culture of Bullying in the school. Something spurred that decision.

That said…the calling in of a professional Bullying expert might have been your first clue, Bill.

WE KNOW you knew you had a problem.

Moving right along…into this known culture of Bullying…now comes a transfer student from another country…whose family alerts the administration that she might be susceptible to….guess what… Bullying!  You know…the problem you just sought help for! Are lights flashing now?  Red alert!  Red alert!

“South Hadley High has a problem we know about and now here comes a kid VULNERABLE to just that problem! All hands on deck!  Red Alert!”


Assuming, the Administration, in a district with a Bullying problem WOULD DO the responsible thing and offer this child an increased level of observation…logical minds might infer the staff and faculty got a heads up here.  I mean this is like someone with a nut allergy being forced to work in a peanut butter factory. Surely, word was put out to be aware of Phoebe?

If it was, that was your second clue.

If not, Gus Sayer and his Principal are unfathomable, despicable failures at their jobs.

But even if they were so irresponsible to keep the faculty unaware…logical minds would assume that good teachers have quality relationships, communication, and interactions with the kids they teach. Are you saying, Bill,  that South Hadley teachers could not connect the dots? Are you saying they could watch Phoebe shoved and knocked about in the halls, shouted at in class, surrounded in the cafeteria and library. hounded, whispered about, her pictures defaced…and none of you ONCE saw a pattern? None of you connected the reports that WERE made and had concern? None of you cared enough to ask questions, share information with other faculty or with students or get involved for this child?

Your students successfully hid a campaign of cruelty in plain sight among the entire South Hadley staff for months?


How disinterested are you people?

If not disinterested…so many clues for you here.

Or are you saying , Bill, that South Hadley teachers have an “Eyes Wide Shut” approach to their professional obligations to their students? Because, otherwise…every incident…reported or just observed… as they continued to be inflicted on the same particular child…should have been an avalanche of clues…to any teacher that cared.

But YOU say…you were all…clueless. Unaware. Know-nothings.

“Meanness” ( your word) is not just an overt act…it is also the imposition of apathy. Adults, teachers, authority figures …turning a child away time after time, turning their eyes away…making the child cope and carry that cruelty all on her own.

THAT is the burden , Bill, that the apathetic staff and faculty of South Hadley High appears to have put on Phoebe…on a child whose family notified YOU…was vulnerable. If indeed , it is proven that she spent her last day at SHHS…essentially walking her own trail of tears, even seeking out the school nurse…and not one teacher or staff member stepped up to show her any support..or give her any hope for her future…then THAT should be answered for.

If it is shown, Phoebe carried your burden of apathy…you can be sure we will require you to carry the burden of accountability.

Why didn’t THEY know?

The Phoebe Prince tragedy confounds me…from two distinctive perspectives.

I have been a high school teacher…in a school with a reputation as being a “tough” school. Many of our students were from single family homes, living on public assistance. Having an older sibling who “graduated” into a prison facility was not uncommon. So please disavow yourself of any mental picture of this high school as the gathering place for scrubbed adolescents in button down shirts, eager to learn Shakespeare.

But all that being was a far, far, far more civilized place than the picture we’ve been given of South Hadley High.

At “my” school, it was a custom for teachers to stand IN the hallways, right outside their door… while classes were changing. It was NOT required….as I say, it was custom. A teacher learns a lot in the hallways as classes are changing…and there is much “interaction” with the kids that a classroom does not provide. In the hallways, you will see tears…and you can question and comfort; you will see fights… and you can step in.  In the hallways…you will learn who are friends or enemies…outcasts or instigators…you can get a good take on what’s bubbling up.

Hmmm…Do the South Hadley teachers stand in the halls?  I’d like to ask them.

I have been the parent of children who attended public school as well. On the day that my daughter started kindergarten..we excitedly made our way to her classroom door (open campus  setting.)  There we saw a group of bewildered children, some alone…some with irritated parents. The teacher was indeed in the classroom, but she had locked the door and was enjoying a smoke.  When I inquired about it later, I was told her contract did not require her to open the door till the minute school started. In the months to come, she never did one whit more than her contract demanded.  The teachers I knew would stay on their own time if a high school student needed help after school; this kindergarten teacher would leave five-year-olds’ unattended… if it was one minute past her union contract obligation.

While I’m on the subject of spending time with students ON YOUR OWN TIME…let me say…that has innumerable rewards as well. One on one…kids will confide. will gossip, will share their stories and the stories of what is really going on in their world. Moreover, that intimacy builds trust…even among the “toughest” kids…and builds cooperation. If any teachers at South Hadley High had had this kind of relationship with Sean Mulveyhill or any of the others…they might have called them in and said..”Make this STOP. C’mon, you’re a leader, a captain. I’m watching you. I’m counting on you. Stop by tomorrow and the next day…I want to know how YOU are making this stop.”

But of course, that means TEACHER cannot be the first out the door.  TEACHER has to engage, listen, and give freely of his or her free time.  How “engaged” are the faculty at South Hadley High?  You know, the place where books are shoved from students arms, girls are slammed into lockers, new students are threatened and pursued into restrooms. vulgarities shouted in the library…bullies barge into class-in-session.

And no one KNOWS anything…unless a report is made?

Teachers are still professionals, aren’t they…not watch-the-clock fast food clerks?  Why didn’t they know? How COULD all this have happened in their professional workplace and they missed it? To me, this is analogous to a patient bleeding to death in a busy hospital corridor…and staff saying”Huh? Well no one TOLD me!”

Do they realize their plea of ignorance is a serious indictment of their professionalism?


And now, they should be held accountable.

One….Alone and Lost

“Dim trotting figures that seldom will attack

Two with a light who match their steps and sing:

To one… alone and lost…another thing.”

We learned more yesterday about the “dim trotting figures” at South Hadley High …the alleged Bully Posse…and their organized conspiracy of relentless cruelty toward Phoebe Prince.

Flannery Mullins is alleged to be the Big He-Girl…the “Muscle”, laying plans to find the opportunity to do physical harm to Phoebe, trolling school bathrooms and hallways for assualtive opportunities.

Velazquez, the archetypal Wannabee (displaying the high moral fiber her Mother tells us she instilled at home.)…prefers loud, obscenity labeled verbal assaults in support of her friend.  As further evidence of her gentle rearing, she describes this harassment  to authorities as but a manifestation true friendship for Mullins….whose pain causes her pain.  As for any such feeling for Phoebe…well, let’s not go overboard with empathy..even post mortem:

“Another student told police that after Prince’s suicide, Velazquez said she “wasn’t the only person that caused Phoebe’s death and that she didn’t care that she was dead.”

And Longe must have been a legend in the Library…where she was permitted to shout her abuse both up close and from tables away…unrestrained by any supervision, of course. FYI, to you taxpayers funding the place, that South Hadley High is providing quite the atmosphere of civility and academic learning,wouldn’t you say.  (Remember when we feared whispering behind the stacks?)