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Jennefer Swetland: The two sides of bullying

To the editor:

A little over two years ago Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old girl living in South Hadley, committed suicide. Chances are if you live in western Massachusetts or in the United States, you have heard of Phoebe’s story. Two books have since been written about Phoebe and the adolescents who bullied her, along with numerous articles.

Bullying is rampant in our society.

According to the federal Department of Adolescent Health, “teens reported that bullying was a problem for them more often than racism, HIV/AIDS, or the pressure to have sex, and was as much of a problem as the pressure to use drugs or alcohol.” One reason Phoebe’s case was so prevalent is that adolescents were criminally charged in connection with her bullying. As the story came out, people took sides. One side maintained that the bullies drove Phoebe to take her life and the school failed to take steps to stop the bullying. Another side, the blame-the-victim view, maintained that Phoebe was mentally ill, and most teenagers would not have taken their lives over being bullied.

What seems to be forgotten in the blame game of why Phoebe took her life is that bullying is wrong. If Phoebe had not taken her life, chances are that these adolescents would have gone through their lives never grasping how horribly wrong they treated her. It is very disturbing to think it takes a suicide of a young girl to bring the subject of bullying to the news. There is only one side of bullying, the side that says no person, no matter who they are and what their past may be, deserves to be bullied.

Jennefer Swetland

South Hadley

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