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More students disciplined following girl's suicide

By the CNN Wire Staff
Phoebe Prince, 15, who had recently moved from Ireland, committed suicide in January in Massachusetts.
Phoebe Prince, 15, who had recently moved from Ireland, committed suicide in January in Massachusetts.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "An an additional small group of students" have been removed from school, school official says
  • Group's displeasure of girl's "brief dating relationship" may have sparked harassment
  • Prosecutor: Suicide of Massachusetts girl, 15, is culmination of months of bullying
  • Phoebe Prince's body found hanging in family's apartment building

(CNN) -- More students have been removed from a Massachusetts school in the investigation of the alleged bullying campaign against a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide, a school official said Tuesday.

Nine students at the school have been charged in what a prosecutor described Monday as a months-long campaign of bullying that led to the suicide in January of Phoebe Prince.

"We have taken disciplinary action with an additional small group of students and they have been removed from the high school," Christine Sweklo, assistant superintendent of South Hadley, Massachusetts, public schools said Tuesday in a news release. She did not provide details on the number of students, their identities or what involvement they might have had in events leading up to the suicide.

Phoebe Prince's body was found hanging in the stairway leading to her family's second-floor apartment in South Hadley, Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel told reporters Monday in the western Massachusetts town of Northampton.

"It appears that Phoebe's death on January 14 followed a torturous day for her when she was subjected to verbal harassment and physical abuse," Scheibel said.

Earlier that day, Phoebe had been harassed as she studied in the library at South Hadley High School, apparently in the presence of a faculty member and several students, none of whom reported it until after the girl's death, Scheibel said.

Phoebe, who had recently moved to the area with her family from Ireland, also was harassed as she walked through the halls of the school that day and as she walked on the street toward her home, the prosecutor said.

Video: What led to teen's suicide?
Video: Making bullies accountable

The harassment that day, by one male and two females, "appears to have been motivated by the group's displeasure with Phoebe's brief dating relationship with a male student that had ended six weeks earlier," she said.

But that day's events were not isolated; they "were the culmination of a nearly three-month campaign of verbally abusive, assaultive behavior and threats of physical harm toward Phoebe on school grounds by several South Hadley students," Scheibel added.

"Their conduct far exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship-related quarrels. The investigation revealed relentless activity directed toward Phoebe designed to humiliate her and to make it impossible for her to remain at school."

In the indictments, returned Friday but not made public until Monday, the Hampshire County grand jury charged Sean Mulveyhill, 17, of South Hadley with statutory rape, violation of civil rights with bodily injury resulting, criminal harassment and disturbance of a school assembly.

The indictments charged Austin Renaud, 18, of Springfield with statutory rape.

Kayla Narey, 17, of South Hadley was charged with violation of civil rights with bodily injury resulting, criminal harassment and disturbance of a school assembly.

The investigation revealed relentless activity directed toward Phoebe designed to humiliate her.
--Elizabeth D. Scheibel, Northwestern district attorney
RELATED TOPICS
  • Bullying
  • Crime
  • Northampton

CNN was not able to reach any of the three, none of whom has been taken into custody, according to Scheibel. She did not elaborate on the statutory rape charges.

Charges against another three girls included violation of civil rights with bodily injury resulting; two were also charged with stalking.

Three other girls from South Hadley were named in four delinquency complaints from Hampshire Franklin Juvenile Court. Their charges included violation of civil rights with bodily injury resulting, criminal harassment and disturbance of a school assembly, violation of civil rights, criminal harassment and assault by means of a dangerous weapon. One of the juveniles was charged in a separate complaint involving a second victim, Scheibel said.

Though initial news reports blamed Phoebe's suicide on cyberbullying, Scheibel said the students' actions were "primarily conducted on school grounds during school hours and while school was in session." She said any use of electronic social networks was secondary to "commonly understood bullying methods."

The bullying of Phoebe was common knowledge to most of the student body and to certain faculty, staff and administrators, Scheibel said. At least four students and two faculty members had intervened during the harassment, but the school's code of conduct was inconsistently enforced, she said.

Though the faculty, staff and administrators' behavior was not deemed criminal, "the actions, or inactions, of some adults at the school are troublesome," she said.

Scheibel said the Prince family had asked "that the public refrain from vigilantism in favor of allowing the judicial system an opportunity to provide a measure of justice for Phoebe."

CNN was not able to reach the Prince family.

Scheibel said the investigation was continuing and that a 10th person may be charged.

Arraignments will occur "in the near future," she said.

iReporter sounds off on Phoebe Prince story

Several of the students remain in the school. In a statement, South Hadley Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Christine Sweklo said school officials would meet with the district attorney to review any new evidence.

"Once we are able to obtain this information, we will be able to make a more comprehensive statement and possibly take further action against the students still attending South Hadley High School," Sweklo said.

The statutory rape charges could result in penalties of up to life in prison, said Elizabeth Farris, a lawyer in the prosecutor's office. A conviction on a violation of civil rights charge could result in 10 years in prison; a conviction for criminal harassment up to 2½ years; a conviction for disturbance of school assembly up to one month, she said.

Those 17 and older will be tried as adults in Hampshire County Superior Court. The juveniles will be tried in juvenile court. A juvenile court judge may choose to institute an adult penalty, a combination of adult and juvenile penalties or a juvenile penalty alone, Farris said.

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