March 30, 2010

A 15-year-old girl kills herself, and 9 of her classmates are arrested on various charges... but what did they do?

Of course, it's terrible when a young person commits suicide. And a suicide may have chosen self-murder because of the bad relationships in her environment. But if we don't favor arresting people who are very mean to people who don't commit suicide, why would we favor these arrests when someone does commit suicide?

Assume you are a teenager contemplating suicide. If you knew the 9 kids at school who were meanest to you would get criminally prosecuted if you killed yourself, would you be more likely to kill yourself or less? I don't know enough about the psychology of suicide to answer my own question, but my intuitive sense is that self-murderers — or some self-murderers — intend to deal a severe blow to the people they leave behind. And knowing your enemies will be prosecuted might spur you on.

Anyway, here's the article about the Phoebe Prince, who hanged herself, prompting the authorities to arrest 9 of her classmates. See if you can figure out how the shock and sorrow of the young girl's death got processed into criminal charges against 9 teenagers and whether this reaction is helpful or just.

[T]wo boys and four girls, ages 16 to 18, face a different mix of felony charges that include statutory rape, violation of civil rights with bodily injury...
Private citizens can commit civil rights violations?
... harassment, stalking and disturbing a school assembly. 
A felony charge of disturbing a school assembly?
Three younger girls have been charged in juvenile court, Elizabeth D. Scheibel, the Northwestern district attorney, said...
... Ms. Scheibel said that Ms. Prince’s suicide came after nearly three months of severe taunting and physical threats by a cluster of fellow students.

“The investigation revealed relentless activities directed toward Phoebe to make it impossible for her to stay at school,” Ms. Scheibel said. The conduct of those charged, she said, “far exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship-related quarrels.”

It was particularly alarming, the district attorney said, that some teachers, administrators and other staff members at the school were aware of the harassment but did not stop it. “The actions or inactions of some adults at the school were troublesome,” Ms. Scheibel said, but did not violate any laws.
I'm still trying to understand what the crimes were. Everything anyone did in relation to a suicide looks awful in retrospect, but the dead person's act of self-murder should not transform non-crimes into crimes. Prosecuting people who were horribly mean should not be a community's way to deal with the grief and outrage felt after a suicide. To what extent are the adults in the community scapegoating the kids to avoid their own feelings of guilt? If there are no crimes to use against the school officials, maybe that's a reason not to unload the weight of the law against the kids.
Ms. Prince’s family had recently moved to the United States from a small town in Ireland, and she entered South Hadley last fall. The taunting started when she had a brief relationship with a popular senior boy; some students reportedly called her an “Irish slut,” knocked books out of her hands and sent her threatening text messages, day after day....

On Jan. 14, the investigation found, students abused her in the school library, the lunchroom and the hallways and threw a canned drink at her as she walked home....
Some of the students plotted against Ms. Prince on the Internet, using social networking sites, but the main abuse was at school, the prosecutor said.
"Plotted" to do what?
“The actions of these students were primarily conducted on school grounds during school hours and while school was in session,” Ms. Scheibel said.

Ms. Scheibel declined to provide details about the charges of statutory rape against two boys, but experts said those charges could mean that the boys had sex with Ms. Prince when she was under age.

Legal experts said they were not aware of other cases in which students faced serious criminal charges for harassing a fellow student, but added that the circumstances in this case appeared to be extreme and that juvenile charges were usually kept private.
So, teenagers willingly having sex with each other, and prosecutors do nothing about it. But if someone commits suicide — an inflamed heart breaks — then the sex partners of the dead person are rounded up and prosecuted for statutory rape. Is that fair?

And "appeared to be extreme"? Were the "legal experts" told more details than appear in this article? Because knocking books out of someone's hands and throwing a canned drink don't sound extreme. And then there's the story of a teen love affair that ended and left some heated feelings. It can't be that.

I'd say we need to be careful how much power we give to those who contemplate suicide. Do we think it will work out better if such a person thinks her enemies will be prosecuted? It's especially bad if nothing is done about bullying until there's a suicide. There is the suicidal person feeling alone, beleaguered, and helpless. She's considering ending it all, and the prospect of escaping all pain and consequence is vividly enhanced by the hope that her antagonists will suffer the ravages of criminal prosecution.

241 comments:

1 – 200 of 241   Newer›   Newest»
oldirishpig said...

How did so many morons get into positions of authority?

Palladian said...

Another prosecutor obeying the howls of the lynch mob and destroying a bunch of young people's lives.

Not to condone their behavior but this reaction is unacceptable.

Shanna said...

No criminal charges against the adults, but lets throw kids in the clink for being mean? BS.

I also hate statutory rape charges against consenting teenagers who are within a few years of each other. That's ridiculous.

mesquito said...

Something bad happened. Somebody's gonna have to pay.


It's freakin' medievel.

Shanna said...

Also, every time I see one of these, I think about the guy in high school who killed himself because his gf broke up with him. I am sure one of these days, somebody is going to be charged with breaking up with an unstable person, or something.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If you were really serious about knowing what the law is you'd ask Kathleen Sebelius for a ruling.

DADvocate said...

It was particularly alarming, the district attorney said, that some teachers, administrators and other staff members at the school were aware of the harassment but did not stop it.

Most states have laws where it is child abuse and/or child neglect to not adequately protect or care for a child. Why are none of the adults being prosecuted. These are the people who were supposed to be in control and have the judgment to do the right thing.

As usual the irresponsible school personnel skate while children suffer.

Methadras said...

It's based around the notion that her feelings were hurt and therefore in this bizarro world, feelings trump logic. So now 9 mean people are charged with the responsibility leading up to her suicide. This world has gone fucking nuts.

"You hurt my feelings. I'm going to do something bad to myself or someone else."

"Arrest those mean people for hurting peoples feelings immediately."

Stupid bullshit.

bagoh20 said...

The fact that no adults could mitigate this harassment despite knowing about it is damning to those adults.

None could talk to the harassers, point out their cruelty, demand it stop, threaten them with consequences before this happened?

It's especially embarrassing and disappointing that an immigrant child would be treated like this by Americans. Imagine the loneliness.

kynefski said...

A few thoughts.

(1) We should be very wary about prosecuting bullying. That just seems like government interference with growing up.

(2) I hope that the school personnel who ignored this learn from this.

(3) I think that Althouse is being a little tone deaf here. Suicide is almost never about vengeance.

(4) I want to say to the kids indicted that they're being treated unjustly. And that that's how it is sometimes. And that it sucks to be you now, doesn't it, asshole?

Jason (the commenter) said...

bagoh2o: None could talk to the harassers, point out their cruelty, demand it stop, threaten them with consequences before this happened?

That's not how teachers or principles work. You tell them you are being harassed, they do nothing, then they put you in detention if you try to defend yourself. And they'll always say "You should have come to me", even if they've done nothing to help you in the past.

Schools are run on either the honor system, or with insanely strict rules (no touching policies).

Bob Ellison said...

Bad things happen.

David53 said...

As usual the irresponsible school personnel skate while children suffer.

Have you ever taught in a public high school? Try it for a couple of years and then talk about teacher responsibility for students.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

If most of the things that happened to this girl happened to an adult, on the street, the police would have been called and charges filed.

The fact that it happens in a school and that the target of the harassment is underage does not change the crimes themselves.

Since the schools themselves are also being fined, I think this could prompt actual changes in the way harassment is handled in the schools. The school knew about the hostile climate and did nothing.

Harassment is a serious problem for many students. Schools don't take it seriously and teachers often just don't see it -- I hope the fine gets the attention of school administration -- Nothing else has worked.

Lem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

I guess this is how you make a name for yourself in politics. Find a sympathetic victim and start throwing books. Where were her parents in all of this?

Big Mike said...

I disagree with Methadras and mesquito, and by extension I disagree with you, Professor. Barring information that suggests the girl was unusually fragile, then the bullying must have been vastly beyond the norm.

That sort of thing needs to be stopped, and if anyone can suggest a better way to slow down or stop the sort of harassment that can lead to a child killing herself than ruining the livers of the perpetrators -- and highly publicizing those consequences -- then I'd be glad to listen.

But the adults should not get a pass. At the very least the administrators, teachers, and staff at the school need about 100 hours (apiece) of training in how to recognize extreme bullying and intervene effectively.

Matthew said...

The reason you can't answer your own question, Miss Althouse, is probably because you have no first-hand knowledge of how people suffering from mental illnesses -- including those caused by the callous actions of others -- think and feel, and ultimately, act.

This girl was driven to kill herself by what sounds like an unrelenting barrage of harassment, to her face, in her school, on the internet -- and her parents could not protect her. The school system did nothing to protect her. Law enforcement didn't lift a finger to protect her. The feelings of absolute helplessness and sorrow this must engender often makes suicide a very attractive and completely logical option, especially if the suicide sufers from depression, or self-esteem issues (a 15 yr old girl, a newcomer to this country and her comunity, trying to fit in, allegedly raped, relentlessly harrassed afterwards, with no reliable figure of authority or trust to turn to for help or relief, could quite easily fit this description).

I'm not qualified to speak as to the legal merits of prosecution. But I can tell you all about the effects of severe depression, anxiety disorders and associated stress disorders (I survived 9/11, and suffer from them all as a result).It's my gut reaction that if these kids did indeed drive this poor girl to take her own life, that they be punished.

Correct me if I'm wrong (I'm no lawyer, thank God!), but, if you force a man with a cardiac condition to run ten miles at gunpoint -- and he drops dead -- aren't you guilty of murder/manslaughter, even if you didn't shoot him and were completely ignorant of his heart disease?

E.M. Davis said...

Her father let her down. Big time.

Nora said...

This is plain appauling. I thought that the rule of law means that you can only charged with offence against the law. However, what happens here is more like an inquisition, than the rule of law. USA schools look more and more like former Soviet Union. And it is not a speculation, I say it from experience. I graduated from school there.

I also think that the staff bare more responsibility than the kids. These are adults we trust our kids with for several hours a day, and keeping kids safe is part of their job description. However, they have teachers union behind while kids and parents are loosing their rights and freedom of decission making at alarming speed. I think there is urgent need in pupils rights organisation to defend tax payers against teachers union.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Eric: Where were her parents in all of this?

When sex is involved, children don't always turn to their parents for help, especially when it is of this nature.

lucid said...

smart post, ann. from a psychological perspective, suicide is often thought of as an aggressive act against others. on the other hand, i am not sure that is the relevant criterion in determining whether or not the harassment by these nine kids was in some way a crime. that seems like a different issue than whether the sucicide would be happy about their troubles.

Almost Ali said...

Ann, it seems you're projecting the intrigues and plots of novels in conjuring up the girl's motive. More, that she wasn't seeking relief from the torment, but rather, revenge cooked up by literary trickery.

Jason (the commenter) said...

E. M. Davis: Her father let her down. Big time

Really? So you know all the inside details about this story? I take it you were one of the bullies.

Lem said...

Why then do some kids become bullies?

We primates live in social groups because there is safety in numbers and it's easy to find mates. But group living is not always easy; every individual is self-serving and yet everyone has to get along.

As research on nonhuman primates has shown, many monkey and ape groups work because the members sort themselves out by rank. Male chimpanzees , for example, know exactly who's a leader and who's a follower. Female macaque monkeys also know their place and they line up accordingly at food resources.

But a social hierarchy is not as stable as it sounds. Everyone wants to be high ranking and the animals are always jockeying for position.

Nishina thinks that bullying in humans might be one part of the same sort of social dance. Bullies and their pals form an in-group and exclude others. The preppie clique intimidates everyone else into their choice of fashion. The brainiacs bond over their social lameness and form their own exclusive group that gives them academic rank
.

I seem to recall from a Nature show that in the wild, a version of bullying has been observed in lower primates.

Bullying seems to be a blunt upward mobility tool.

Synova said...

Teachers are required by law to report abuse that happens outside of school, even only vaguely suspected abuse they have no actual knowledge of whatsoever.

So sorry for those teachers caught in the middle, but too freaking bad.

What possible justification can there be for not reporting abuse that happens right in front of you?

Schools are the most systematically abusive situations possible and we're required by law to send our children there, pay out the nose for an alternative, or go to jail.

Boo, freaking, hoo.

paul a'barge said...

...criminal charges against 9 teenagers and whether this reaction is helpful or just.

... you mean like the fellow student who drove by her house, slowed down the car and threw something at her while she was outside?

And she then went inside and hanged herself.

And you want to question the legal system for prosecuting these 9 monsters?

Not me, baby. Not me. Crucify them, every one of the 9. In public.

DADvocate said...

Have you ever taught in a public high school?

I was a teacher's aide in a special education school for behavior problem/mentally ill kids plus worked three summers at a camp for the same. For the most part public school teachers and administrators are alarmingly inept. In my experience their first thought in any situation is self-preservation.

You don't have to work at a high school to see what is wrong with it. Teachers' unions and the circle the wagons mentality of teachers perpetuates the problems. Your logic is pathetically weak.

If we had vouchers or some other form of truly free choice in where our kids went to school, things would change quickly and dramatically. But, the lefties don't believe in free choice except in killing your unborn child.

Cedarford said...

Societies transition, the means by which norms are imposed changes.

In pre-industrial times, the sort of attacks by "the Mean Girls" (as their gang was know at the school)of one tribe to a child of another would have swiftly escalated into a matter for adults of the tribes to hash out. Even if that meant violence or killing. But on the child level, the attacks would cease one way or the other fairly swiftly.

In more developed societies, hazing started and was even endorsed, not just tolerated - as a path to develop "manliness" or "a thicker skin". The rules, such as they were, were that the bullying only happened at certain times, only one person was allowed to buck up the person being bullied, and there was a time when the norms were that a time came to end it...

Now, no matter what your love of the Sacred Parchment is or if hounding a person to death still is not "outside Rule of Law" - clearly the bullying has changed in recent decades into a sadistic, lasting thing conducted remorsely in and out of school and done by an organized group - and it violates by leaps and bounds what society wants to tolerate.

We have seen this get out of control and disaffected parents and teachers make no effort to stop it and any kid's complaints called "snitching". In certain locales - the wolfpack behavior becomes so intense and unrelenting it ends in a level of unbearability that causes mental breakdown in the victim, suicide, or murder.

There have been several school shootings traced to relentless bullying. One a few years back involved an El Salvador immigrant hounded by blacks - day in and day out until the kid joined a gang with the express purpose of getting a gun for killing his tormentors. And he did. One of the blacks who survived watched the Salvadoran kill his 12 year old brother and testified that the Salvadoran asked him in bad English how he felt seeing his brother suffer like he did. Then he suicided. But not before killing 2 blacks, wounding 2, then chasing down a 3rd wounded and putting 4 more shots in that bully.

I support the arrests because this is the same sort of thing as the Mom from Hell and her daughter did to get another young girl to suicide.

We now have sexual harassment laws, and I see bullying laws are needed in the same vein - perps are told to back off - if they don't heed that - they should be criminalized.

The damage to individuals from this relentless gang bullying, the damage to school environment, the damage to society - right up to the school or workplace shooting sprees - is just too immense to ignore.

Let the 9 little bastards writhe and sweat the awful situation their foul deeds have landed them in.

Had it been my daughter, I'd be thinking of killing some of their parents...and if reason somehow won over rage...how to sue and wipe out their whole family;s life savings.

Almost Ali said...

I'm not qualified to speak as to the legal merits of prosecution.

There are none. It's make-it-up as you go along the line of least resistance.

While the bully's disciples are running the school.

fivewheels said...

Another tragedy that leaves everyone in its wake heartsick -- except for the trial lawyers who are popping corks. The worst imaginable way to address this difficult situation and those like it will rigorously be found, and implemented, by them.

Matthew said...

Fine, Ali. If there are no legal barriers to forcing you to suicide, I'll start harassing you this evening. I'll be showing up on your lawn to shout sexually-suggestive lies at your bedroom window all night. I'll smear your character online in every chat room I can find. I tell everyone I meet about your poor hygiene and raging addiction to certain sexual acts. I will post Photoshopped pictures of you in sugegstive poses (some of them involving farm animals) all over the Internet. It doesn't matter if any of it is true -- there's no legal merit to prosecuting me for it, you see?

I'll also post your private e-mail and home addresses online, and write your phone number on every men's room wall in the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and the Receiving Desk at Riker's Island. I'll encourage every scumbag on the planet to fill your mailboxes, virtual, physical or telephonic, with the worst sort of invective imaginable. Hell, I won't even have to tell most of them what to say, either.

And then I'll get my friends to help me harass you, because that could soon turn into a 24/7 job. It's no fun unless there's a group of us ganging up on you. We'll be sure to throw garbage at you from a moving vehicle if we ever see you on the street.

I might even rape you (I'll have to be drunk and close my eyes, I'll bet), like this girl allegedly was, and then tell all my friends about it.

And there's nothing you can do about it, because as you say, there's no legal merit to prosecuting me.

In the end, if I do send you over the edge and you manage to hang yourself (you can tie a knot, yes?), I'll use your pronouncement that there are no legal limits as the first item in my defense. In effect, my defense will be: "Ali gave me permission to kill her, because she saw no legal merit in prosecuting me".

I'm certain that'll go over real big with the judge and jury.

(All of that, incidentally WAS SARCASM. I wouldn't do any of those things to anyone! But that's what those kids are accused of doing to this poor girl)

edutcher said...

The whole thing sounds like Zero Tolerance run amok. The school administration that micro-manages everything else can't seem to lay down the law to the hooligans. The girl apparently was attractive enough that she had romances with the boyfriends of a couple of girls and those girls decided to get even. Funny, this sort of thing didn't end in suicide when I was that age. It all got worked out.

(Truth in advertising - I went to an all boys school. And stories like this make me soo glad I did.)

I think Ann has a point about what crimes were specifically committed. Throwing a canned drink is not necessarily a felony. If it were, the food fight in "Animal House" would have replaced Big Al and his baseball bat in "The Untouchables".

OTOH, the prosecutor may be keeping mum about specifics because the whole thing may be as lame as it seems.

One question, Professor. I thought statutory rape was about intercourse between a minor and an adult, not two consenting minors.

Eric said...

When sex is involved, children don't always turn to their parents for help, especially when it is of this nature.

Well, sure, but if you believe the prosecution there's a whole lot more going on here than sex. I refuse to believe things got that bad and her parents didn't know there was a problem.

LYNNDH said...

You know, I am really appalled at the apparent lack of sympathy for the girl. She was physically attacked, verbally abuse ( not just "mean words). Yes a 15 yr old can be fragile. And it is alleged she was raped. She was new to this country and to the school. Her parents went to the school and nothing was done. Four other students went to school officials and nothing was done. Before blowing this girl off, learn a little of the facts. Two of these "kids" were over 18. Adults.

Lem said...

This is a tough call..

While I don't have any sympathies for bullies, I can see how we may crack the door open for all kinds of invasions from an increasingly intrusive police state.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Eric: I refuse to believe things got that bad and her parents didn't know there was a problem.

Maybe they did, maybe she lied. Maybe they put it off as "boy trouble" or a "moody teenager".

Jeremy said...

ONLY the ass wipes HERE would come to the defense of these creepy little bastards.

You people are sick.

Jeremy said...

Ann "The Queen" Althouse...leader of the "pack."

"If you knew the 9 kids at school who were meanest to you would get criminally prosecuted if you killed yourself, would you be more likely to kill yourself or less?"

You should be ashamed.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Palladian: Not to condone their behavior but this reaction is unacceptable.

The timing is unacceptable. All these charges came too late.

Lem said...

I remember my father having to pick up my report card; going around the school classrooms meeting the teachers.

I guess they cant do that anymore with the sizes of some of these schools.

Jeremy said...

A 15 year old kills herself to get classmate bullies in trouble?

That's Ann "The Queen" Althouse's take on this.

Do you really believe that??

She ended her life to get even?

Matthew said...

"You people are sick."

Some of them are lawyers -- what do you expect?

Irene said...

edutcher said, I thought statutory rape was about intercourse between a minor and an adult, not two consenting minors.

Some states have so-called "Romeo and Juliet statutes" that discourage prosecution of minors who engage in consensual sex. Other states, however, will pursue cases of consensual sex between minors. One or both parties can be charged with the statutory equivalent of statutory rape. A well known case is that of Genarlow Wilson.

Other states have laws that require one party to be several years older than the other. It all depends on the jurisdiction.

Although minors engaged in consensual sex may be prosecuted as juveniles, it's likely they'll nonetheless be required to register as sex offenders.

Synova said...

"As research on nonhuman primates has shown, many monkey and ape groups work because the members sort themselves out by rank. Male chimpanzees , for example, know exactly who's a leader and who's a follower. Female macaque monkeys also know their place and they line up accordingly at food resources."

And could anyone here who has any other sort of animal at all, explain what happens when a new individual is introduced to the group?

I don't even change my mice around without certain precautions to distract them.

But somehow, you know, we expect human children to operate socially in groups of several hundred age-mates. (Adults are never ever expected to do this in the work place or socially.) Rather than recognizing that this is unnatural and going to lead to problems we produce after school specials and vapid movies to combat the inevitable results.

Yay, us.

Almost Ali said...

Mathew, I'm only saying the prosecution's case is without legal merit. They'll have to make felony law as they go along.

I'm also saying they chose the wrong target(s); responsibility lies wholly with the school's administration; it happened on school property under their supervision.

As for the girl's parents, civil litigation is another matter entirely - with a potential settlement equal to the school's annual budget.

mRed said...

I am not a lawyer,but when a certain cliche targets one person to ridicule, harrass and belittle and that person's only defense is suicide, can they not be held responsible for their actions?

Jeremy said...

Listen to you people...

"Another prosecutor obeying the howls of the lynch mob and destroying a bunch of young people's lives."

"lets throw kids in the clink for being mean? BS"

"It's based around the notion that her feelings were hurt and therefore in this bizarro world, feelings trump logic"

"We should be very wary about prosecuting bullying."

"Bad things happen."

"I guess this is how you make a name for yourself in politics. Find a sympathetic victim and start throwing books."

"Barring information that suggests the girl was unusually fragile, then the bullying must have been vastly beyond the norm."

"The whole thing sounds like Zero Tolerance run amok."

You need therapy.

Synova said...

Jeremy is an asshole. I hope you never have to deal with depressed people.

The "and then they'll be sorry" thought is the most common thing imaginable.

I realize that you live to ridicule Althouse because it makes you feel like a man. I don't expect it to stop.

And I don't expect you to stop pretending that reality is different than it is if you see an opportunity to ridicule. I get it. Ridicule is important to you.

Getting back at abusers can take the form of murder suicides or more subtle things, and why not a punitive suicide?. The idea that a person who feels tormented doesn't *think* of that is despicable, really, because it ignores what is real in favor of a cheap point for no purpose whatsoever.

If you think that tormented people, or even just the vaguely suicidal don't think those "and then they'll be sorry" thoughts... then present some argument or evidence that this doesn't happen.

The other people who disagree with Althouse are presenting arguments as to why it is a good thing to prosecute those who were abusing this girl.

I don't think you even disagree with her. I think you just are full of hate in your little heart.

Jeremy said...

Almost Ali said..."Mathew, I'm only saying the prosecution's case is without legal merit."

How do you know that already?

Jeremy said...

Synova - I have no idea why you're calling me an asshole for siding with this young girl.

I think you need to read before you post really stupid comments.

Jeremy said...

Synova said..."I realize that you live to ridicule Althouse because it makes you feel like a man. I don't expect it to stop."

I ridicule anybody who appears to think this little girl may have taken her own life with ulterior motives in mind as the rationale.

Fuck off.

Matthew said...

Ali, this is why I'm glad I'm not an attorney, because you apparently have to shut one half of your brain off in order to do it properly.

I thought it was *already* illegal to use the internet, or other electronic contrivance, to harass, slander or otherwise terrorize someone else. Didn't that become the law of the land after that girl in Texas was driven to suicide by a cheerleading-rival's mother?

Did I miss something or is it not within the scope of prosecutorial discretion as to whether or not to bring rape charges against an individual when there is evidence that a rape did/might have occur(ed)?

There are witnesses to the harassment (four fellow students stood up for her). For all we know, Phoebe kept a diary. Theremay even be a police report floating around somewhere. Harassing e-mails and text messages don't get "erased" just because you clicked "delete". Online correspondance has more lives than your cat.

There is evidence of a crime - perhaps several crimes.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Althouse: Assume you are a teenager contemplating suicide. If you knew the 9 kids at school who were meanest to you would get criminally prosecuted if you killed yourself, would you be more likely to kill yourself or less?

Imagine you are legally required to go to work each day, where a large group of people call you a slut and threaten you. Other people laugh when this happens. You have no idea how far the threats will go because none of the people in charge do anything to stop what you are already dealing with. Today someone threw soda at you, tomorrow it might be bleach or acid.

Would you be more likely to kill yourself or less?

Would you say what happened to you was "very mean" and didn't warrant an arrest?

Revenant said...

I would say that this is insane, but it seems to be the consensus these days that there is no problem too small to escape the notice of district attorneys.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Where's Sir Thomas More when you need him?

traditionalguy said...

This is not rocket science. The School has to stop the abusive conduct and that means expelling students that are repeat offenders. That is where the schools today WILL NOT act and instead will officially hide behind the impenetrable barrier between students and teachers that makes all students out to be equally the problem for the poor teachers. It is a BS trick that schools agree in advance to get away with using. The result is no teacher work, no justice by expelling the culprits, and covering up by blaming all students as if they are subhumans.

Happy Warrior said...

This is apparently what happens when we lose all sense of what personal responsibility means -- your reactions to any and all events around you are yours. Other people have no power to determine your actions or inner state. How else could someone like Victor Frankl survive a concentration camp? Certainly the concentration camps were a bit more abusive than even the worst high school.

Victims just love to blame others for their own problems.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Perhaps some of the people here could hold off on telling Althouse how horrible she is, until they try getting her to change her opinion, or see this issue from another perspective.

Jeremy said...

Anybody remember the teenage girl in Missouri who killed herself...after a neighbor friend's insane mother ridiculed here relentlessly?

Synova...is all right with you and The Queen, too??

Anybody defending these assholes is disgusting.

Jeremy said...

Revenant said..."I would say that this is insane, but it seems to be the consensus these days that there is no problem too small to escape the notice of district attorneys."

So if your daughter was the teenager here...you'd ask the district attorney to butt out?

Synova said...

"I ridicule anybody who appears to think this little girl may have taken her own life with ulterior motives in mind as the rationale.

Fuck off.
"

And what knowledge do you have of people with suicidal thoughts? What is normal to go through someone's mind when they contemplate killing his or herself?

What is more compassionate? Being willing to look at the truth of how that plays out in order to prevent other little girls from taking their lives, or at least not accidentally creating a situation that might encourage other little girls to kill themselves. Or getting your self-righteous rocks off?

You're even failing at proving that you care more.

traditionalguy said...

This type of school induces hopelessness, because the student is actually trapped in an abusive system where there is no authority that cares to resolve it, but instead tacitly approves of it. Welcome to the same world that will be the soon coming New Health Care System wrought by the Communist Obama.

EnigmatiCore said...

"I don't know enough about the psychology of suicide to answer my own question, but my intuitive sense is that self-murderers — or some self-murderers — intend to deal a severe blow to the people they leave behind. And knowing your enemies will be prosecuted might spur you on."

My intuitive sense is that you are right.

But my intuitive sense is that, in the long run, it might cause societal pressure and/or fear that acts to stop the bullying, and in the long run might end up being a net positive.

Nah. That goes too far. But I think that we are still entirely too permissive of kids being assholes. "It's just kids being kids" excepting to someone who has had a quarter of their lives (or more) destroyed.

Lem said...

Not even the granddaughter of the emperor of Japan is exempt.

As Joe Biden would say - this is a big f**ing deal.

The newspaper, quoting a top aide to the crown prince and princess, says the 8-year-old second-grader has been complaining of "strong anxiety and stomach aches."

The only child of Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masakois attends a Tokyo primary school
.

Synova said...

Jason gets this right:

"Imagine you are legally required to go to work each day, where a large group of people call you a slut and threaten you. Other people laugh when this happens. You have no idea how far the threats will go because none of the people in charge do anything to stop what you are already dealing with. Today someone threw soda at you, tomorrow it might be bleach or acid."

Is what these kids did felonies? I don't know, exactly. But I do know that if it was ADULTS involved that the police could be called and charges filed for battery at least, and assault certainly.

And would the employer be held responsible for the environment and harassment even *without* the the legal coercion to attend that work place? Yes, they would.

So what is different because this is kids and school?

Shouldn't kids have more protection than adults have rather than less?

EnigmatiCore said...

"Do you really believe that??

She ended her life to get even?"

Jeremy- you don't think that troubled kids might think that way?

Then you are just as bad as the ones who turn their heads because it is just kids being kids.

Yes, some kids do think that way. And while it is easy to say, "they've got their whole lives ahead of them", in the grand scheme of things they are having not-insignificant portions of their lives turned into punishment, generally for no reason at all. And they don't necessarily know it will get better, and they sure as shit don't believe it will because some namby-pamby online says it will.

Shanna said...

... you mean like the fellow student who drove by her house, slowed down the car and threw something at her while she was outside?

So that is what, destruction of private property? I would have no problem charging them with that. Or, if they hit her with a coke can, maybe some sort of simple battery. The charges being leveled do not fit the crime. Nobody is saying these people aren't assholes.

Matthew said...

Synova, most people don't know what it is to labor with a mental illness (all they have to deal with is stupidity -- and they're often too dumb recognize it), nor do they understand what some illnesses may cause people to do.

I've suffered from Clinical Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Agoraphobia, Anxiety Disorder and Obesessive-Compulsive Disorder for many years now. I can't tell you how many times the thought "I'm better off dead..." has crossed my mind (it sometimes still does). No matter how much "medicine" they give you, it almost never helps: because th ebrain is the organ medical science knows the least about. It's all guesswork.

I would rather have full-blown-metasticized cancer than to have to deal with this stuff. Because with cancer, you know there's always an end to the pain and suffering. Not so when you're trapped inside your own head -- which is a devestating weapon when you point it at yourself.

I wouldn't wish this sort of thing on my worst enemy, and those who have never had to confront such problems should thank whatever it is they hold holy that they haven't had to suffer like this.

Synova said...

Jeremy... the fact that you're a knee-jerk asshole has no relevance to my or anyone elses opinions about anything whatsoever.

It's not clever to be an asshole while "defending" the victim and then act like anyone who calls you on your assholery is against the girl rather than against you.

And I think that using her death to enter into some self righteous ranting about other people who are actually concerned about the situation and discussing it and raising various ideas about prevention or encouragement and externalities stemming from possible actions, as if this makes them nasty and you wonderful is just lame.

Really lame.

Almost Ali said...

Mathew - We'll need a lot more particulars regarding a charge of rape. Even then a jury will only hear half the story since the alleged rape victim is dead.

Not to absolve the bullies, the first line of attack should be aimed at the school's administrators. Especially since it appears that they allowed a culture of bullying to exist, even flourish among student-body.

Meanwhile, life demanded an awful lot from a 15-year-old girl. Too much.

Lem said...

What Synova just said ie Jeremy.

Synova said...

Matthew, I've suffered from depression as well. All in all it wasn't even that serious, which just makes me have a whole lot more sympathy for other people.

I remember once I was at my house keeping job in college and I was standing on the edge of the tub to dust something or other and this part of my head goes, "I could slip and fall and break my leg... and then they'd be sorry." And just that quick I'm like, "What the heck? Who do I think would be sorry? That doesn't even make any sense! There isn't anyone who I'd want sorry."

There are a lot of dark thoughts people don't talk about because other people would think you were crazy. The difference is that they weren't important just because you thought them, so why freak other people out?

But they are there.

And someone like Jeremy acting like there is something bad about talking about what most certainly is real for people, can only result in those for whom the thoughts are important because of one thing or another, because of depression or extreme harassment, it can only result in more pain and hurt and people who need help NOT getting it.

And all so someone can feel superior.

Yay.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Considering Althouse's argument, I find her choice of a case involving statutory rape to be in poor taste and counter-productive.

As far as the taste goes, she calls a girl who committed suicide a "self-murderer" and the boys who raped her, people who are being "prosecuted for statutory rape".

Why does the girl have to get the brunt of Althouse's rhetoric?

Shanna said...

Meanwhile, life demanded an awful lot from a 15-year-old girl. Too much.

Sure. The best way to deal with this stuff for the individual being bullied is probably either to develop a very thick skin or to switch schools to a place where people aren't complete assholes.

School's are either incapable or unwilling to deal with bullying. If they were, as mentioned earlier, the people doing the bullying would have been disciplined, possibly even expelled. That would have been a good outcome. Instead we have these charges which are an attempt to deal with things reactively, and act like we can solve this problem with a felony prosecution. I just don't think we can.

Jeremy said...

Synova said..."And what knowledge do you have of people with suicidal thoughts? What is normal to go through someone's mind when they contemplate killing his or herself?"

I have a hard time siding with the bullying assholes versus the kid who was the brunt of the ridicule.

What is your point here?

Matthew said...

"Not to absolve the bullies, the first line of attack should be aimed at the school's administrators. Especially since it appears that they allowed a culture of bullying to exist, even flourish among student-body. "

This reminds me, in some ways, of the movie "A Few Good Men". The murder victim in that one was someone who didn't fit into the "culture" of Colonel Jessup's Marine Corps, and for that he had to be harassed, singled out for punishment, and eventually, it all resulted in his murder.

The (successful) defense of "They were just following orders" was just so much bullshit.

In this case, the school is probably going to be held responsible for failing to report something-or-other, or of not filling in the proper paperwork..and then they'll be made scapegoats for the REAL villians here.

The disinterested gamete-donors who sired nine baboons-disgused-as-children, who apparently never tauight them right-from-wrong, or anything about compassion, turhfulness,morality and fair-play. All things they've probably decided the School was supposed to teach the little bastards.

Honestly, I'd like to see all nine of these kids convicted, and then sentenced to punishment-in-kind; let them e forced to hang themselves in their bedroom closets (assuming evidence of their crimes and a fair trial).

Because much like Pvt. Santiago in "A few Good Men", this poor girl was driven to her death because she apparently didn't fit into the Harasser's idea of the proper "High-school Culture".

Put the blame squarely where it belongs; on the kids, andthen their sorry excuse for parents.

Jeremy said...

Lem said..."What Synova just said ie Jeremy."

I side with the little girl.

You're such a suck ass little prick.

Shanna said...

As far as the taste goes, she calls a girl who committed suicide a "self-murderer" and the boys who raped her, people who are being "prosecuted for statutory rape".

Jason, at this point statutory rape can mean anything from a 50 year old raping a 10 year old to a 17 year old whose boyfriend already turned 18. We know these are all high school students, so it's not the first one. If it was rape, as in sex that was not consentual, that is a different story. We don't have any details that indicate that.

David said...

I do note that South Hadley is but a few miles from Northampton. In 1675, my ancestor Mary Bliss Parsons was indicted for crimes allegedly committed in Northhampton.

""Mary Parsons, the wife of Joseph Parsons...being instigated by the Devil, hath...entered into familiarity with the Devil, and committed several acts of witchcraft on the person or persons of one or more."

Mary's witchcraft was alleged to have caused the death of another young woman, among other consequences.

Mary was tried by magistrates outside of Boston and acquitted. She was fortunate that her husband Joseph Parsons was a person of some influence and means. Mary testified on her own behalf in the case with force and effect. She may have been fortunate, however, that the group of magistrates did not at that time include another of my ancestors, Cotton Mather.

Many of the witches who later came before Cotton were not as eloquent as Mary Bliss, and did not have the influence of her husband Joseph. Their outcomes varied, and are still remembered.

Jeremy said...

Synova, nice try to redeem your ridiculous defense of these asshole bullies and your "Queen," but we both know all you're doing is trying to suck up.

Defend the bullies all you want, but you're wrong.

Synova said...

"I side with the little girl."

No you don't.

But stick your bottom lip out when you say it.

How can you side with the girl when you're more interested in The Queen?

Beau said...

I don't know enough about the psychology of suicide to answer my own question, but my intuitive sense is that self-murderers — or some self-murderers — intend to deal a severe blow to the people they leave behind.

Wow, just freaking wow. Do you have any idea how offensive you are being? You don't understand the psychology of suicide - fair enough, then don't speculate and write such tripe. Expend a little energy on researching what suicide is typically about. You're a law professor and you're writing as if you're uneducated hick about something that has a clear legal definition.

It's painfully obvious that you're living out some rebel thing you couldn't do in your 20's, but at 50+ you're a bit late to the party to be doing it publicly for all to see. The shock and giggles thing that you've be doing lately is callow and should be beneath you.

Being in love with your rebel self wears off quickly when you don't have youth as an excuse and sometime from now you'll just feel silly that you got taken in.

Jeremy said...

Shanna - Another defender of these creeps...twisting whatever bits and pieces you know or don't know to provide a legal out?

You think this kid just decided to kill herself for no good reason?

Is that really what you think...or are you just another Synova sucking up to Ann??

bagoh20 said...

"If you knew the 9 kids at school who were meanest to you would get criminally prosecuted if you killed yourself, would you be more likely to kill yourself or less?"

Of course we don't know, but this is entirely possible. As mentioned above, it has been the admitted motive behind similar situations that have lead to murder or suicide. It's a common cultural narrative on the subject which does not prove it, but proves it to be entirely a reasonable possibility. People in that abused state are not going to make logical choices, but rather emotional ones. I don't quite understand the need to deny this most likely of motivations.

She, her family or her teachers needed to simply file a formal complaint with the school and the police. She could have gotten a restraining order; there was an assault. Then the arrest would be entirely appropriate.

Lem said...

Jeremy your rants are boringly similar. Time and again you say the same thing...

If you were more interesting I would accuse you of bullying, but you are to dull.

and another thing.. You are not contributing to the discussion.

Matthew said...

The idea of "I'll kill myself, so that they'll be sorry" is certainly a possible scenario, but highly unlikely. Making someone else "Feel Sorry" requires an assumption that the Other has a sense of sympathy -- something this girl certainly did not get from any quarter, and may have assumed she would never get.

Which leaves us two other options:

a) She killed herself "to send a message to society about the evils of excessive bullying", which might be a formulation beyond the capability of many 15 yr olds

b) she killed herself because the bullying inflicted real, psychic scars upon her; she was humiliated beyond rehabilitation, and because she was under the impression that it would never end. She most likely felt completely powerless and worthless as ahuman being. Why live at all if that's all you have to look forward to?

Synova said...

"I have a hard time siding with the bullying assholes versus the kid who was the brunt of the ridicule."

Not a single person has sided with the bullying assholes even by implication. It is not our fault, not any of the people arguing various contrary positions here, that you chose to interpret the slightest suggestion of actually humanity and real feelings on the part of the girl who killed herself as "siding with the bullies."

Your lack of care while reading suggests that your lack of care extends to the subject as a whole.

No one is fooled by your protestations that this is about defending the girl.

It's all about attacking The Queen.

The sites founders. said...

What on earth do folks expect to happen with bullies?? We are teaching our children that they must not be confronted, that if only we talk we can "work it out". What a pile of crap. I suppose I date myself but back in the late 50's the bane of my existance was Jack Bronner. He pounded on everyone during recess and on the playground. Finally, I had had enough and just pounded the crap out of him - end of bulling.

Same thing happen to my son in 3rd grade. We talked to the teachers, the principal, the parents - nothing. The kid just delighted in beating my son. Finally I told the teacher and the principal I had given him permission to hit back and take the kid out. One round on the playground stopped the bullying.

If we teach our kids to be defensless, they will be defensless. If we teach our kids to stand up for themselves and defend themselves, they won't fall prey to this bullying crap.

I truly feel for the parents. We had a suicide a couple of years ago. The girl broke up with her boyfriend and hanged herself with her handmade blanket. She even sent texts out to friends to say good bye. Such a very sad time.

David said...

Jeremy the Constitutional Scholar says:

Indictment = Conviction.

Jeremy said...

Synova - "No you don't."

I have absolutely no idea what you would base that on, other than just sucking up to your Queen.

Defending these bullies is disgusting and you know it.

What won't you people do to stay on the good side of Ann Althouse?

Palladian said...

"I have a hard time siding with the bullying assholes versus the kid who was the brunt of the ridicule."

LOL. Absolutely delicious that you of all people are railing against bullying. If the "little girl" had been a "tea-bagger wingnut suckass" you would have shown her how to tie the noose.

DUH.

David said...

Something bad happened.

Someone must pay.

The Witch Trials premise.

Palladian said...

"Defending these bullies is disgusting and you know it."

YEAH FUCK YOU FOR DEFENDING BULLIES YOU TEA-BAGGing ASSHOLE. SUCK MY DICK YOU DISGUSTING WINGNUT. GO KILL YOURSELF.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Shana: Jason, at this point statutory rape can mean anything from a 50 year old raping a 10 year old to a 17 year old whose boyfriend already turned 18.

We know we are dealing with a girl who was 15 at most, and at least one senior, probably 18. This isn't a generic case. For all we know the girl didn't discuss her problems because she knew she was statutorily raped, she didn't want to get certain people arrested. But Althouse hasn't decided to talk about this issue, and we don't really know.

Don't tell me the rape was nothing though.

Beau said...

b)she killed herself because the bullying inflicted real, psychic scars upon her; she was humiliated beyond rehabilitation, and because she was under the impression that it would never end. She most likely felt completely powerless and worthless as ahuman being. Why live at all if that's all you have to look forward to?

Compassionate and educated. What a thoughtful attitude to see on this site.

Jeremy said...

David said..."Jeremy the Constitutional Scholar says: Indictment = Conviction."

I said nothing of the kind.

I asked if it was someone's daughter here, would they recommend the district attorney butt out.

It should be investigated and if evidence is there...arrest them and see where it goes from there.

This isn't some kind of new, out of the norm situation. It's happened before...and you know it.

Synova said...

Matthew, we can't know. I think that it's entirely likely for anyone pushed to that point to feel that something that extreme will get through, that they do have a realistic expectation that their tormentors will suffer for life.

That is not at all an argument of what was the case in this particular instance. Not at all. Not even remotely, because who can know?

But whatever the best thing to do about it all (I suggest making school *not* compulsory so that any child at any time can get *out*), I can see the concern that prosecutions could have the unfortunate result of presenting suicide as a way to get back at the people who are hurting you.

It's something to consider, if nothing else so that it can be dismissed as a concern.

bagoh20 said...

I call for a cage match between Jeremy and The Queen. I got $100 says she pins him with her pinky.

And yes I am sucking up to her, because I need the approval of a stranger thousand of miles away who I have never met and who has nothing I need. It's so logical.

Jeremy said...

Palladian - Keep on suckin' little man.

Sorry...little fat man.

Jeremy said...

bagoh20 said..."And yes I am sucking up to her, because I need the approval of a stranger thousand of miles away who I have never met and who has nothing I need. It's so logical."

That's the first honest thing you've ever posted since I began slogging through this swamp of wing nuttery.

Synova said...

"Defending these bullies is disgusting and you know it."

Find a single instance of me or anyone else, anyone at all, defending the bullies in any way whatsoever. Post the quote. There is no one who has done so on this thread. There is not a single person who has said that the bullies were right and their victim was wrong. Not one.

But you lie and you know it.

bagoh20 said...

Beau,

It's an opinion. To assume that every suicide is identical in motivation and thought process is just not reasonable. There are many suicides where the suicide note specifically states the suicide is in order to punish others. It's very common. Why would you immediately need to pick one possibility which nobody knows for sure and berate people for not agreeing. Is that reasonable?

Jeremy said...

Synova said..."Matthew, we can't know. I think that it's entirely likely for anyone pushed to that point to feel that something that extreme will get through, that they do have a realistic expectation that their tormentors will suffer for life."

You actually think this kid killed herself, thinking by doing so, her "tormentors" might suffer for life?

Even YOU can't be that dense.

edutcher said...

Irene said...

edutcher said, I thought statutory rape was about intercourse between a minor and an adult, not two consenting minors.

Some states have so-called "Romeo and Juliet statutes" that discourage prosecution of minors who engage in consensual sex. Other states, however, will pursue cases of consensual sex between minors. One or both parties can be charged with the statutory equivalent of statutory rape. A well known case is that of Genarlow Wilson.

Other states have laws that require one party to be several years older than the other. It all depends on the jurisdiction.

Although minors engaged in consensual sex may be prosecuted as juveniles, it's likely they'll nonetheless be required to register as sex offenders.


Interesting, I learn something new from this forum at least once a month. Thank you, Ma'am.

Jeremy, this an exercise in pointlessness for you. Except to go on a tear about Ann, you're really not saying anything worthwhile. You say you side with the girl. I don't see anyone who doesn't. It's an issue of is this criminal and is an exercise in a priori logic.
(And, yes, I would agree with you that someone committing suicide to get other people in trouble is straight out of bad TV)

Jason (the commenter) said...

Synova: Not a single person has sided with the bullying assholes even by implication.

Althouse has. She seems to be saying that we are encouraging children to commit self-murder by prosecuting the bullies.

And she said this:

"...the sex partners of the dead person are rounded up and prosecuted for statutory rape. Is that fair?"

The "girl" has become a "person". I guess she thinks it wasn't rape-rape.

Jeremy said...

Synova - "Find a single instance of me or anyone else, anyone at all, defending the bullies in any way whatsoever. Post the quote."

OKAY:

"Another prosecutor obeying the howls of the lynch mob and destroying a bunch of young people's lives."

"lets throw kids in the clink for being mean? BS"

"It's based around the notion that her feelings were hurt and therefore in this bizarro world, feelings trump logic"

"We should be very wary about prosecuting bullying."

"Bad things happen."

"I guess this is how you make a name for yourself in politics. Find a sympathetic victim and start throwing books."

"Barring information that suggests the girl was unusually fragile, then the bullying must have been vastly beyond the norm."

"The whole thing sounds like Zero Tolerance run amok."

bagoh20 said...

"Although minors engaged in consensual sex may be prosecuted as juveniles, it's likely they'll nonetheless be required to register as sex offenders."

Our society does not seem to actually get more enlightened or liberal, it just moves the target around. Sex offenders are the witches of our age. The idea that two teenagers having sex is an offense for which they can be punished for life, the same as a 40 year old who abuses a 6 year old, is just medieval stupid.

Jeremy said...

Synova - Enough quotes for you?

Have you cross-referenced this with your Queen?

Matthew said...

Synova, I'd rather those in Authority do the right thing, and punish the offenders (criminal prosecution as adults, if warranted) and then their parents (Civil Suits up the ying-yang), if only because you're not allowed to horsewhip peope in public anymore.

If anything, it might do something about teaching kids and parents that there are CONSEQUENCES TO YOUR ACTIONS AND YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEM. A concept that society seems to have forgotten about; in this case, it seems that no one had any sense of responsibility at all.

bagoh20 said...

"...the sex partners of the dead person are rounded up and prosecuted for statutory rape. Is that fair?"

The "girl" has become a "person". I guess she thinks it wasn't rape-rape.

Jason, then you do think they should prosecute her boyfriends regardless of when or how they had sex with her? They may have nothing to do with her harassment.

Jason (the commenter) said...

bagoh20:Sex offenders are the witches of our age. The idea that two teenagers having sex is an offense for which they can be punished for life, the same as a 40 year old who abuses a 6 year old, is just medieval stupid.

I think society makes it illegal for people to have sex with 15 year olds, because the 15 year old may not be emotionally and physically ready for the consequences. And they may end up killing themselves.

Lem said...

How about naming bullying as a disorder?

I don't think a bully would like very much to be diagnosed as having a disorder.

Its not like everything else we do has not fallen in some disorder category..

I know this is prob a bad idea :(

bagoh20 said...

But, two teenagers both get punished for life for "harming" each other voluntarily. The jails ain't big enough, cause nearly everyone I know is a sex offender under this definition.

bagoh20 said...

At 16, I already owned multiple guns, hunted, killed and dressed animals, drove cars, drank and did drugs. Sex was not the tough part to handle.

Revenant said...

So if your daughter was the teenager here...you'd ask the district attorney to butt out?

I assume that if my daughter killed herself I would be insane with grief. Spot the important word in that sentence that indicates why neither I nor any other bereaved parent should be choosing who to punish for a child's death.

Matthew said...

It has been suggested (I'm not certain of the source) that the two boys associated with the rape may have taken their turns with the girl, or perhaps engaged in a threesome.

I don't presume to know if this was consensual or not, but it's rumored that this -- liason -- became public knowledge, and one of the boys involved might have been the boyfriend of another girl involved. This might be the original source of all the trouble in this unfortunate case.

Hell hath no fury like a scorned-and-hormonal teenaged girl defending her turf. And nothing is more vicious than a pack of stupid females ready to descend upon another over a wayward "man".

bagoh20 said...

Wouldn't this bullying behavior get the cops on your ass if you were an adult doing it to anyone?

The thing is that despite our talk, in some ways we value children less than adults. For example: People who work with children are generally paid less than those who do similar work with adults: teachers, care takers, doctors, etc.

Matthew said...

"...People who work with children are generally paid less than those who do similar work with adults: teachers, care takers, doctors, etc..."

You've obviously never been to New York City. Here, the typical teacher (with a crappy Education degree from the watered-down City Colleges)makes about 80K after a decade on the job, while the typical computer programmer on Wall Street with the same amount of experience (but no degree) is lucky to make 70 -- and that doesn't include gold-plated benefits, three-months-a-year paid vacation, and the ability to stay on the payroll forever and keep your pension while your serial-child abuse case is "ajudicated".

Revenant said...

Althouse has. She seems to be saying that we are encouraging children to commit self-murder by prosecuting the bullies.

Um... worrying that prosecuting bullies might encourage bullies' victims to commit suicide counts as "siding with the bullies"? Did you stop to think about what you were writing before you wrote it?

The "girl" has become a "person".

The "girl" didn't "become" anything. Althouse was stating a general rule -- prosecuting a suicide's sex partners -- and asking if it was fair.

I guess she thinks it wasn't rape-rape.

Obviously it violated Massachusetts' statutory rape law, because under that law it is "rape" if a girl one day shy of her 16th birthday has sex with a boy on HIS 16th birthday. But from a commonsense perspective? It wasn't rape of any kind. It was teenagers having consensual sex.

Comparing it to the Polanski case just shows that you haven't brought your common sense to this discussion. :)

Freeman Hunt said...

If these bullies were harassing this girl in this way, the charges should have been filed BEFORE she resorted to killing herself.

If you're going to file charges now, you should file them against the adults who didn't bother filing them (or reporting the harassment) until it was too late.

It's very easy to end a bullying situation if you are the teacher in a classroom. If you don't do so, you should be ashamed of yourself.

John0 Juanderlust said...

This is as much the result of public schools and how they are structured as anything. It is a sick system in which those in charge have ignored the reality within their walls for decades. Very similar to prisons. Many new schools actually look like prisons, and the resultant abuses are similar--the worst of the worst torture the others, and get by with it. Many bystanders go along just so that they aren't targeted, and the people in charge either learn blindness, or possibly fear the consequences of doing the right thing.

Perpetually perplexed said...

I simply do not believe a bullied, depressed, feeling like an outcast, insecure teenager would have the capability to think "I know, right!? I'll kill myself and get them all in BIG trouble!"

She most likely felt worthless and that no one would care.

David said...

Jeremy says re Indictment=Conviction"

"I said nothing of the kind."

Jesus, Jeremy.

You said:

"Defending these bullies is disgusting."

You called them "creeps."

You said:

"Only the ass wipes here would come to the defense of these creepy little bastards."

You said:

"Anybody defending these assholes is disgusting."

Damn, Jeremy. What would you say if you were not prejudging? It's an indictment, Jeremy. These are allegations, not proven facts.

You are either astroturfing or magnificently deficient in self awareness.

Ann Althouse said...

"You know, I am really appalled at the apparent lack of sympathy for the girl. She was physically attacked, verbally abuse ( not just "mean words). Yes a 15 yr old can be fragile. And it is alleged she was raped."

Statutory rape. That doesn't have a nonconsent element. It looks — from the too-opaque article — like she had a boyfriend with whom she willingly had sex. Later, they broke up, and this was a source of bad feeling that had something to do with the suicide. Do you seriously thing the boy should go to prison for that?

"She was new to this country and to the school. Her parents went to the school and nothing was done. Four other students went to school officials and nothing was done. Before blowing this girl off, learn a little of the facts. Two of these "kids" were over 18. Adults."

I wanted to learn the facts from the article. My post is primarily about the lack of substance to the article. It was all conclusions and was tipped toward making you think the kids who were arrested deserved it. Do you have any sympathy for the average teenager who was a jerk and now finds his life being ruined by an aggressive prosecutor. The girl is -- in a word -- dead. Her life is *gone.* There are living kids who are being put through the criminal system and I would like to know why. The article *does not say.*

Ann Althouse said...

And suicide is murder. A human being is intentionally killed. Don't sentimentalize it. It is a hostile, violent act, and we should send a strong message to that effect. Don't sugar-coat it. Tell the truth. Killing is wrong. Let's get a straight message out there so immature individuals don't make the irreversible mistake.

Ann Althouse said...

You may think the girl had some reasons to commit self-murder. Murder is often strongly motivated. The victim of murder has often done terrible things that drive the murderer to it. It's still murder. Suicide is the intentional murder of a human being. We can have humane feelings toward murderers, but don't ignore the truth. A human life has been intentionally snuffed out.

Iapetus said...

The family could have filed suit against the school for not ensuring that their daughter had the chance to learn in a nonthreatening environment, and they could have filed for restraining orders against the schoolmates who were taunting and harassing her. As new immigrants to the US, perhaps they were unaware that they had some legal recourse that might have prevented the death of their child.

bagoh20 said...

"She was new to this country and to the school. Her parents went to the school and nothing was done. Four other students went to school officials and nothing was done. Before blowing this girl off, learn a little of the facts. Two of these "kids" were over 18. Adults."

Sounds like the school was waiting for a body to show up.

Our institutions (not only educational) are getting pathetic. To a degree, I blame the law which is so nuanced and unreliable that most people are paralyzed for fear that any action they take will be the wrong one legally. Even then, in some cases, you need to have the human decency to be courageous.

John said...

Ann Althouse said:

"And suicide is murder. A human being is intentionally killed."

So, Althouse, can an attempted suicide be charged with attempted murder? Has it ever happened?

jaed said...

Suicide is about the farthest thing imaginable from a hostile act. It's an act that comes out of the absolute conviction that you are worthless, that you are a burden on this earth, and that other people deserve better than to have you around. It comes out of a bottomless sense of worthlessness, not hostility.

Someone contemplating suicide knows it's wrong. It's just that letting oneself continue existing would be even more wrong. Snarling at someone in this position, harshly informing them that they are immoral, wrong, and bad, is far more likely to push them over the edge than to do anything helpful.

If you're ever around someone in this position, for heaven's sake think before you say anything like this.

bagoh20 said...

"And suicide is murder. A human being is intentionally killed. Don't sentimentalize it. It is a hostile, violent act, and we should send a strong message to that effect. Don't sugar-coat it. Tell the truth. Killing is wrong."

This I don't understand. Does all that apply to euthanasia? The violent act was done by the girl to herself. I'm confused.

bagoh20 said...

Do we feel the same the prosecutorial urges when a man kills himself after harassment by bill collectors and the IRS? Should we go after them, should we ask: "Why do they hate us so much?"

Cedarford said...

Happy Warrior said...
This is apparently what happens when we lose all sense of what personal responsibility means -- your reactions to any and all events around you are yours. Other people have no power to determine your actions or inner state. How else could someone like Victor Frankl survive a concentration camp? Certainly the concentration camps were a bit more abusive than even the worst high school.


What a pile of puffed up tripe. "Others have no power to affect your inner state"??? Horseshit. Our emotions, our status, our mood are determined by interactions with others.

I know that adults if harassed, particularly on race, gender, ethnicity have enormous legal power to make it stop and make the perps pay a price. A whole body of law governs employment sexual harassment.

We have imprisoned young men for harassing wild animals and pets to death by chasing them in ATVs and motorcycles.

But somehow we let this sort of behavior happen to our kids on notion that children should not have protections given to animals or adults? Because their abusers are kids? Actions that would get a workplace harasser fired that day or someone on the street arrested are OK, because the harassers are kids?
And what do we do with a kid that torments animals??? What do even teachers do if they hear about it? Why they report animal abuse to authorities, naturally!!

Look, it goes past just suicide - into being the root cause of many of these school or after school shootings or stabbings/beatings. All too many of these bloodbaths, upon investigation, have at their root a pattern of extremely agressive long term bullying that escalates into serious violence. Moreover, studies find that many prison inmates started by joining a gang because they were bullied..Then once in a pack with safety of numbers, turned what happened to them as learned and sanctioned behavior onto another - thinking that it being their turn to bully, diss,physically attack other kids. They saw nothing wrong in it. Based on their experience, was just how the universe worked, and best be the bully rather than the bullied.

And kept that pattern going after leaving school - until arrest.

This is a huge public safety problem.

Bullying creates criminals. For boys that break, many seem to be choosing to kill other students, inc. not just bullies but those that stood by, before killing themselves. The girls end up not killing others but driven to suicide or therapy.

I do know about the family (mother and daughter) who went after another piece of "easy young female prey" face to face and on the Internet and caused her suicide. The adult perp spent 2 years in court, lost her life savings and business, had police protection, and was forced to move from the state of Missouri.

John said...

Synova said:

"Jeremy is an asshole. I hope you never have to deal with depressed people."

Jeremy's being obnoxious as usual, but this time he's right.

bagoh20 said...

I bet anything that the individuals in the school decided to not act to protect her out of fear of losing something: a job, status, law suit. I doubt it was just being insensitive to her problem. They never expected her suicide and assumed that there was some chance that they would end up on the wrong side of things if they acted. It's very common in our society. It's due to lawyers and their promises of easy wealth and resolution.

bagoh20 said...

"Jeremy's being obnoxious as usual, but this time he's right."

I thought he sounded just like I imagine the bullies in this story did as they were taunting.

jk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jk said...

These charges will have the perverse effect of causing suicide to be seen as an even MORE attractive option to vulnerable kids: Your enemies are incarcerated and you become a tragic hero.

Cedarford said...

Althouse - Suicide is murder.....

all Althouse is doing is blowing smoke. Morally and legally.

==============
But suicide is not the biggest problem with bullying. Our schools "tech" children that violence and intimidation and demeaning others is sanctioned and helps build your status while tearing down the weak, making them weaker..
And we professed to be shocked when some thug we found was an active bully in school gets out and preys on the elderly or weak and tells cops he "learned to go from being picked on to having the shoe on the other foot...Ain't no big deal, learned it is how it is in school.."

Sociologists note troubled mothers transfer bullying behavior they participated in or were subject to to their own children...

The biggest publicity is of course the bullied kid that decides to kill themselves, but take as many others who made their life unbearably miserable with them.

Eric Harris, one of the Columbine shooters. mentioned that he had the power now and all the years of being bullied would end in a powerful lesson for those who hit him and laughed at him.

Eric Harris, one of the two attackers at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo: "Your children who have ridiculed me, who have chosen not to accept me, who have treated me like I am not worth their time, are dead."

Experts say bullying is a serious and widespread problem that can lead to school shootings and suicide. At the same time, they say, it is dangerously underrated, as schools and adults are not taking the problem seriously enough.

"For the child who's been targeted by a bully, their life is a living hell," said Glenn Stutzky, a school violence specialist at Michigan State University. "Bullying is probably the most frequently occurring form of violence in American schools today and it's really the engine that's driving the majority of violence. It's a huge problem."

When it is pack behavior and the bullying doesn't end at school but is taken to every corner of the target's life by multiple parties, parents and teachers unable or unwilling to intervene, most reach a breaking point. Requiring relocation, legal intervention by personal lawyers, and/or mental health counseling.

Even though several states have now passed anti-bullying legislation, Stutzky said the American school system is 10 to 15 years behind countries like Australia, Scandinavia, Great Britain and Japan, all of which deal with bullying as a serious social problem.

"We have allowed a culture of abuse to thrive unchecked in our nation's schools," said Stutzky, "and we are paying for it with the bodies of our children."


(As a HS teenager, me and a friend went after 3 kids a few years younger than us we saw bullying a retarded kid after their school let out. Kicked the crap out of them. Took their wallets and got their names. All for being outside what we thought was toleratable, morally. That was after warning them a few weeks before when they had the same kid cornered and in tears, that if we saw them do it anymore, they would pay..I guess you can call it counterbullying, and I frankly found I enjoyed it.)

Christy said...

FWIW, this past year I have spent a great deal of time with an 8th grader. I've noticed, probably because I'm not a parent, that he tells me more than he tells his mom and dad.

Just this Thursday I heard of a female friend at another school who was being slapped by other kids while at school. I insisted that they tell the school authorities, and the kid explosively yelled, "No! You just don't understand Middle School." And continued, as teenagers are wont to do, to rant about how stupid I am. He and I have had this same conversation several times this year. Kids at his school are adept at pulling this stuff behind the teacher's backs.
Teachers may suspect, but they don't have enough proof to withstand the outraged denials by the parents of the bullies.

As Jason said early on, kids have no options. They can tattle (making themselves even more of a pariah,) they can fight back and get suspended (because by that time teachers are noticing,) or they can shut up and take it.

Theo Boehm said...

jaed: Suicide can very well be a hostile act. A friend of ours committed suicide in just about the most hostile way imaginable. Horrible. And it was quite intentional in its message to his wife.

That said, I'm curious that Althouse is taking a traditional Christian view of suicide. She sounds like grim Sister Josephine teaching us about it in Catechism class.

In what other areas of morality does Althouse agree with traditional Catholic teachings?

Absolution is commonly given these days, even for horrible suicides like our friend. He had a large, Church funeral, unthinkable when I was a kid all those years ago.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

You undercut your argument by disgustingly suggesting that the young girl killed herself to seek revenge on her bullies. Please.

People who commit suicide are more often than not so far gone and detached from reality, they have no concept or thought about what is going to happen to the people they're leaving behind.

Yes, prosecuting the bullies is ridiculous (assuming they didn't break any laws), but implying that it will lead to more suicides by people who want to punish their enemies is insane. Suicide is a selfish act of solitude that does not consider other people.

Xmas said...

Ann,

The Boston Globe has a better set of articles explaining things.

The "civil rights violations" stem from the accused students denying the girl the ability to go to school unharassed. Massachusetts had big problems with black kids being bussed into unfriendly schools in white suburbs, so schooling became a civil right.

The girls parent's plead with school officials to have the bullying stopped. The school officials did nothing.

From the sound of the article, the bullying included threats of violence and actual violence (ripping books out of her hands is just one example). The three girls charged as minors physically assaulted someone else that tried to intervene with the bullying.

If you had included the stalking charges brought against the students, you would see that this was an organized campaign of violence against a girl singled out because of her nationality, aimed to prevent her from utilizing one of the most basic rights guaranteed by the government, an education.

Yes, I add a bit of hyperbole, but if those kids have an email or text message trail planning things against that poor girl, those kids are screwed.

Matthew said...

Tsk, tsk, Professor.

"...And suicide is murder. A human being is intentionally killed. Don't sentimentalize it..."

By this reasoning, then the opposite must also be true, and a Murder is just an "extroverted suicide"?

That is an incredibly illogical and immoral position for you to take. Someone is dead; the how and the why are important if there is ever to be justice.

I thought you were supposed to care about that, being a Law Professor and all that?

You're forgetting there's a victim here, and by that I mean someone who quite possibly wouldn't be dead if someone had come to her aid when they had the chance, and if nine other someone's didn't (allegedly) make her life a living hell just because they could.

If that quote is indicative of how you teach your students to think, then I'm no longer mystified as to why people hate the "profession" of law.

jimspice said...

Ann Althouse said...

"Do you seriously thing the boy should go to prison for that?"

Yes.

Apparently you don't have daughters.

And given reports that the abuse continued on MySpace and FaceBook after the fact, these punks should be discovered and pilloried so others my think twice about doing the same in the future.

And yes, that's why I'm not a judge.

Youngblood said...

"(3) I think that Althouse is being a little tone deaf here. Suicide is almost never about vengeance."

Bull.

There are plenty of "I'll show you!" suicides in which, at the moment the decision is made, vengeance is the immediate motivation. They're fairly common, especially among teen girls. (My cousin was one.)

William said...

For a lot of people nothing again is ever as bad as the time they spent in high school. I don't remember myself or anyone else being bullied in high school, but I do remember feeling negligible and self-conscious and clueless. And then I got a severe case of acne. The kids I went to school with were basically a decent bunch, and treated me perhaps with a tad more forebearance than I deserved. Or maybe I was just too negligible to be made into a scapegoat. At any rate, even without bullying, high school really, truly sucked.....I think my experience mirrors that of a fair number here--although none of you have ever suffered as much as I have. There is a quick sympathy with this girl because we remember how vulnerable we were and how easy it would have been to compound that blue funk into a suicidal depression......This poor girl seems to have had the bad luck of being surrounded by loutish classmates and indifferent school officials. If she did this to get back at them, she made a poor choice of weapons. It is true that those responsible will replay this girl's death many times over in their mind. But they will try to remember her as a weakling, a self murderer, and will absolve themselves completely of her death. I don't know if anyone should be convicted of a crime, but they deserve to indicted for a crime.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Revenant: Um... worrying that prosecuting bullies might encourage bullies' victims to commit suicide counts as "siding with the bullies"?

To clarify, I was responding to the phrase "sided with the bullying assholes even by implication" not "siding with the bullies". However, Althouse is siding with the bullies, her statements could have been made by a defense attorney for the accused students. There's no way a prosecutor would have said anything she did. It is obviously biased in one direction.

Did you stop to think about what you were writing before you wrote it?

Why do you make this accusation in the form of a question?

The "girl" has become a "person".

The "girl" didn't "become" anything. Althouse was stating a general rule -- prosecuting a suicide's sex partners -- and asking if it was fair.

No, Althouse is using rhetoric to frame her statements in the best possible light, and she's not being subtle about it. If the 15 year old wanted a sex change, you can be sure Althouse would call her a "child" whenever possible.

I guess she thinks it wasn't rape-rape.

Obviously it violated Massachusetts' statutory rape law, because under that law it is "rape" if a girl one day shy of her 16th birthday has sex with a boy on HIS 16th birthday. But from a commonsense perspective? It wasn't rape of any kind. It was teenagers having consensual sex.

"Common sense". Well, the law calls it rape because it assumes children aren't physically and emotionally ready for sex and it's consequences and that there are consent issues. The girl committed suicide. Using common sense I would say the law is fair in this case. Trying to say it's not rape rape when we have a dead girl is ridiculous.

Comparing it to the Polanski case just shows that you haven't brought your common sense to this discussion. :)

Smiley faces do not seem appropriate to me on this thread.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Althouse: My post is primarily about the lack of substance to the article.

You made arguments that would only support the defense, not the prosecution. You took a side, you didn't primarily say there was a lack of substance.

It was all conclusions and was tipped toward making you think the kids who were arrested deserved it. Do you have any sympathy for the average teenager who was a jerk and now finds his life being ruined by an aggressive prosecutor. The girl is -- in a word -- dead. Her life is *gone.* There are living kids who are being put through the criminal system and I would like to know why. The article *does not say.*

There is a dead 15 year old girl. All the people who are arrested and having their lives ruined now should have been arrested and had their lives ruined while she was still alive. The question should be, why does the government wait until someone is dead to do anything, not, if prosecution should be brought after the worst possible effects of crimes have occurred.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Althouse: And suicide is murder.

No one argues with the definition. We're saying you support the bullies and we're looking at your rhetoric to show that you were biased against the 15 year old girl who died. Calling her a self-murderer, and the other rhetorical choices you made in your post, all speak against you.

It was a cheap way to make your point.

kentuckyhusseinliz said...

Before texting and social networking, bullying was all F2F and there was relief from it--you could go home.

Now the computer and the cell phone perpetuates it into every space and moment. There is no escape, no relief. Constant distress.

Kids know how to do all this stuff under their parents' and teachers' noses undetected.

Boston is tough and there's a lot of tough behavior and they probably have a high tolerance for it there, systemically.

One girl in HS took a dislike to me for no reason whatsoever--she was part of the tough crowd, not a popular mean girl--and I heard she wanted to kick my ass. I took a knife to school. Word got out, school searched my locker and my things but I had hidden it smartly, and that girl heard about it and she was all like "we're cool, man." I didn't want to go after her, just defend myself. But it was just crazy enough to get her to back down, without having to do anything, and I never had problems again.

Mom searched my stuff too and never found the knife because it was back in the butcher block by the time she got home from work. LOL

You have to stand up for yourself. I would be proud of my kid for fighting bullies physically if necessary, even if the school suspended him/her for fighting. It stops the bullies and they go looking for easier targets.

Bullying takes two to tango...and the bullies sniff out the weak who won't stand up to them. I have a nephew with that personality. Bless his heart.

PC school environment can't tolerate teaching people to stand up for themselves though.

Makes me think of the song "Misfit" by Curiosity Killed the Cat, and another song off that album (my cassette died long ago and it's not on iTunes)...really good about the whole bullying thing.

Shanna said...

Shanna - Another defender of these creeps...twisting whatever bits and pieces you know or don't know to provide a legal out?

Jeremy, because I dealt with my own share of bullies in school (although thankfully not quite as bad as this girl), I learned to deal with people like you without it hurting my fragile feelings! But though I think you are an asshole sometimes, I don't think you should be prosecuted for it, even if I were to go kill myself tomorrow and then people went online and found out that one "jeremy" was being really mean. If it wasn't a crime before the suicide, then it isn't a crime afterwards. That is the long and the short of it.

You think this kid just decided to kill herself for no good reason?

I think everyone who decides to kill themselves does it for no good reason, except people who are very old, very sick and in pain. Probably unlike you, I look at reports of suicide attempts every day and the vast majority involve some variation of "my wife/gf/so left me". I think it's tragic that people kill themselves because they are bullied, or sad, or a relationship ends or for whatever reason, but it is NEVER for a good reason, because life goes on. I just wish this girl had stuck around long enough to learn that lesson. Poor thing.

Roger J. said...

As much as I dislike Jeremy, I think he has it right on the major substance (the Althouse as queen rhetoric seems a bit wierd for me--but it is Jeremy.)

And I also suspect that not enough is known yet about this case--I do hope more facts come to light.

My condolences to the family of the poor girl.

Ann Althouse said...

Interestingly, conservative commenters are siding with Jeremy because they are not appreciating what are my liberal arguments about prosecutorial excess. Jeremy is so hostile to me that he's forgetting about being a liberal.

bagoh20 said...

"Althouse: And suicide is murder."

"No one argues with the definition."


I certainly do. Who is the Murderer?

Can I be prosecuted for robbing myself.

If I leave note saying I'm killing myself to punish the IRS or my wife, how can that be murder?

No wonder people fear the legal system like the Spanish Inquisition. The thinking seems random.

k*thy said...

“She most likely felt completely powerless and worthless as ahuman being. Why live at all if that's all you have to look forward to?”

Yes, it’s called “The Fuckits”. In this life, we can only play with the cards we are dealt – we have no idea what her family life was like. It’s certainly plausible that she had no support there, either (including, obviously, the school). To me, it seems more likely that she saw this as her only option. This was her way out. I would think that if she were going for revenge, she’d of tried other measures, short of taking her own life, first. There’s currently no evidence of that.

bagoh20 said...

I don't care about liberal or conservative here. But logic and consistency matter. Of course that forces me to be a conservative also.

Hoosier Daddy said...

The reason kids will bully to this extent is because they know they can get away with it. The comments from several people worried about the fate of the nine fucktards who did this to the girl kinda prove the point.

There is bullying and then there is cruelty and its a pretty clear line when one is crossing over from being a bully to being a cruel harraser.

I informed my daughter that if she is ever physically assaulted by anyone at school that she is to go medieval on them; teeth and eyeglasses all over the place. And Allah protect the male prick who lays a hand on her cause he'll get a beating from me so hard his mama will have labor pains.

Bullys always pick one those who won't or can't defend themselves. Once they get their asses handed to them they skulk off like the POS they are.

Roger J. said...

Professor--there are, of course, several levels of analysis--you may be (appropriately) looking at it from a procedural standpoint where prosecutorial excess is a valid point; eg, Mr Nifong and others; there is, I think a larger moral question that may transcend the issue.

An interesting topic, and I appreciate your posing it here-

bagoh20 said...

Bullying is a natural human interaction and I expect serves a purpose. But communities have to set limits about things that have purpose but can be abused to bad ends.

The community here dropped the ball. There are already things in place that would have prevented or stopped this. The question is why did they fail.

I contend that the people with the responsibility to stop it, decided that the costs to them were not worth it. They didn't expect a suicide, they expected a law suit, with them involved.

I find it a little ironic that legal eagles would have such disdain for bullying - isn't it pretty much the job description of many lawyers?

Robert Cook said...

This is to be expected of the increasingly punitive and authoritarian American state, an inevitable result of the positive voter feedback that accrues to so many pols and police chiefs and prosecutors running for office on "get tough on crime" platforms, a proven vote winner for decades. The bloodthirstiness of the American electorate for merciless punishment of any criminal anywhere anytime is coming back to bite us all in the ass.

The liberals are nearly as much to be blamed for this for their support for passage of "hate crimes" laws, which violate the first amendment and which enable virtually any behavior to be defined as a crime...but it doesn't matter, right?, because we're wiping out the hate!

Roger J. said...

Damn--i am very uncomfortable finding myself in agreement with both Mr Cook and Mr Jeremy

And Mr Cook--well said.

bagoh20 said...

Holy shit! Robert Cook!

I have never agreed with you on anything, but you are spot on here, and most surprisingly balanced.

Now where is the real Robert? on second thought, forget him, you should stay.

Hoosier Daddy said...

This is to be expected of the increasingly punitive and authoritarian American state.

Is there something wrong with punishing criminals?

I know when I was growing up when I was bullyed I fought back which ended the bullying. When I wasn't strong enough to fight back, I made friends with the kids a grade or two above me and guess what? The bullying stopped.

Roger J. said...

Hoosier: of course when you are a third degree black belt and own dobies, that does immunize you from a lot shit. (good on you)

Robert Cook said...

My comment should not be read as being dismissive of the destructive nature of bullying, and I think more adult intervention into bullying among children is certainly called for. I even think appropriate and proportional punishment of bullies for their behavior is called for. This does not seem to be that.

Ann Althouse said...

Roger J. said..."Professor--there are, of course, several levels of analysis--you may be (appropriately) looking at it from a procedural standpoint where prosecutorial excess is a valid point; eg, Mr Nifong and others; there is, I think a larger moral question that may transcend the issue."

There are plenty of moral questions including the role of criminal law and the prosecutor and scapegoating kids when adults and the suicide herself all had a role. You can talk about any other moral questions you want, but I don't see the transcendence of one aspect of morality over another that you refer to. I think with the life already departed, the excesses of government power are as important as anything happening now.

Salamandyr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roger J. said...

oops--HD--I think I confused the ownership of dobies with Hardin--apologies--the black belt thing still applies

Maguro said...

Is there something wrong with punishing criminals?

No, nothing at all. But what law was broken here? No one doubts that the bullies behaved despicably, but if the law amounts to nothing more than whatever the public finds despicable, we are all in a lot of trouble. It's the definition of mob rule.

Salamandyr said...

Interestingly, conservative commenters are siding with Jeremy because they are not appreciating what are my liberal arguments about prosecutorial excess. Jeremy is so hostile to me that he's forgetting about being a liberal.

Althouse, at first glance, despite my own history with serial harassment in high school, I was inclined to agree with you. Especially in the grounds of overreach. Statutory rape? Really? Disruption of a school assembly?

However earlier the argument was made that prosecutions for this behavior would have been completely uncontroversial if it had occurred outside the confines of a school. And I think I agree with that more.

It says something about the public school culture that behavior that would be considered felony level criminal-assault, verbal and physical, sexual harassment, often of the crudest sort-in the private sector is considered so normal a part of daily life that to actually punish it is considered somehow outrageous. Are our children animals? Is it right they are caged each day with people who delight in verbally and physically abusing them? Why do we accept this?

Of course now, thanks to the "connectedness" we celebrate in other avenues of our lives, there is no escape from the harassment. Thanks to text messages, email, Facebook, it's a constant drumbeat of harassment wherever you go. And it's rarely one person. There's really no way to avoid a peer group that the state forces you to stay with. There's no getting them fired. There's only putting up with it, day in, day out, with no aid from anyone in authority.

Shanna said...

Wow, I agree with Robert Cook too!

I contend that the people with the responsibility to stop it, decided that the costs to them were not worth it.

Indeed. I'm wondering if the kids who were doing the bullying had status with the teachers (smart kids, football players, suck-ups, whatever), since that can make a difference in whether they feel like coming down on them.

Roger J. said...

professor: most certainly agree with your closing point. Thanks for clarifying for me.

WV: beritti--many berettas

Hoosier Daddy said...

Honestly Roger, the driving reason for me to learn martial arts was being able to defend myself from the asshats of grade school and high school.

I've done the same for my daughter because kids, even high schoolers, are in a general sense cruel and will stay that way as long as they can get away with it. Back in my day 'telling the teacher' usually just resulted in a bigger ass kicking later on not to mention the dreaded title of 'snitch'. So not only were you getting your ass kicked, the kids who didn't kick your ass thought you were a puss.

Then the day came in 7th grade when I had enough and stood up for myself, left the bully with a broken nose and a funny thing happened. Never was bothered again. I might say I earned some respect or maybe it was fear but either one was fine with me.

Hoosier Daddy said...

And let me just say, should these kids be prosecuted? I don't know to the extent of harrassment involved. I see threats of violence, stalking and correct me if I am wrong but I know as an adult I couldn't get away with that and it seems 'children' get a big pass when it comes to criminal activity that would put anyone of us in the pokey for a while.

bagoh20 said...

In the examples here that some have given about how they overcame bullying, you can see the societal purpose it serves. It brings the timid along and strengthens them, but only if managed by the others in the community: adults, older kids, or friends. It teaches us to man up or find community. Life will eventually bring these challenges and we need to be ready. I suspect that's why it is so common in children. It part of our training.

Moira Breen said...

edutcher: The whole thing sounds like Zero Tolerance run amok. The school administration that micro-manages everything else can't seem to lay down the law to the hooligans.

Jason(the commenter): That's not how teachers or principles work. You tell them you are being harassed, they do nothing, then they put you in detention if you try to defend yourself. And they'll always say "You should have come to me", even if they've done nothing to help you in the past.

Hoo yeah. My daughter got the "anti-bullying" onslaught in middle and high school, which always sent her home infuriated, as the administration and "experts" were so eager to make, shall we say, egalitarian and distributionist assignments of guilt, and so unwilling to pass righteous judgment on the perp, that they ended up with a de facto bully-enabling policy. The kids even got lectured on "understanding" and "including" the bully - from an ex-policewoman, God help us.

Now 17, she sums up the whole approach as "an intense need to villify self-defense". I can't help but wonder if these people secretly admire and favor the bullies.

Theo Boehm said...

kentucky"hussein"liz: Actually, South Hadley is nowhere near Boston. It's a leafy small town in the western part of Massachusetts. It's adjacent to the Happy Valley college town of Amherst, but has a lower percentage of the usual college town suspects. It's not "tough" in the urban sense, like some Boston neighborhoods, but more in the exurban and rural way that people who live in such areas might be familiar with. I suspect there's a mix of Happy Valley types and townies, which tends to a certain amount of friction. Phoebe Prince, as a European outsider, probably fits in the former category, her assailants the latter.

I live in an historic Boston suburb (Minutemen marched 150 yards from my house), but here, in the traditionally uptight, politically correct 'burbs, bullying is REALLY clamped down on. My 15-year-old son and all his friends I'm familiar with have had very few problems. Having gone to a much larger, rougher high school, I'm amazed at how nicey-nicey things are.

My other son goes to a Catholic all-boys' school in Cambridge, where the students are rowdy ("boys will be boys"), but bullying of the sort Phoebe Prince experienced hardly happens. Of course, stranded on a desert island, Lord of the Flies would break out instantly, as anyone familiar with human nature ought to know. It's even a choir school, too.

Which brings me back to the teachers and school administration. Although my kids go to radically different schools, the common element is the engagement, awareness and responsibility of the adults in the environment. Bullying of the extent that poor girl suffered should have been known about, and someone ought to have intervened.

Prosecuting the rotten kids involved may or may not be a good idea. But holding the school authorities to some account is the first place I would start if there is to be any outside intervention at all here.

The threat or even reality of a hefty civil judgement against the town would do wonders to turn South Hadley into a clone of our oh-so-cautious, Prius-driving suburb.

Of course, trying to maintain appearances in such a suburb can make the adults suicidal, but THAT is another topic entirely.

Number Six said...

If we are prosecuting bullies . . .

then soon we must prosecute the prosecutors.

Theo Boehm said...

Moira: As you can see from my comment, my son has gotten a lot of "anti-bullying," too. But it has been backed up by a culture of pretty severe enforcement that has, by the standards of my own high school experience, made the whole place much more adult and responsible in tone.

I think this is a good thing. But it goes deeper than administrators and teachers going through the motions of complying with some program. As I implied, it really is a culture of not putting up with this crap.

Of course, that's precisely the problem with instituting anti-bullying programs in a place like South Hadley. It involves a change of culture that the locals probably view as yet another imposition from outside.

Matthew said...

"...Interestingly, conservative commenters are siding with Jeremy because they are not appreciating what are my liberal arguments about prosecutorial excess. Jeremy is so hostile to me that he's forgetting about being a liberal..."

Really, Miss Althouse, it's becoming embarassing; that's your third lame defense for what was, initially, an extremely terrible argument.

I realize (having been enegaged to one) that being a lawyer is often about talking out of both sides of your mouth and your rectum simultaneously, often about extending often-stupid arguments in order to win an argument, but this does not become you.

First you were simply asking a rhetorical question, then it's all about the process, and now, it's all about how one's perspective is conditioned by a political considerations? The hair-splitting and logical-gymnastics aside, try this one on for size:

Objectively and morally, there is very little difference between the following:

1) I've stabbed you in the chest in order to steal your money. Because I wanted it. For good measure and because I can do so with impunity, I stab you several more times. I then leave you to bleed to death over the next few hours in an alley, alone and in agony.

and

2) I rob you of your humanity by a dehumanizing process of abuse and mental torture. I have at you at every opportunity that I possibly can, and then enlist others to help me -- because I might need to sleep sometime. We keep up the psychological pressure until you are forced (by a mental process you've admitted you don't understand) to take your own life in order to seek relief

I may not intend your death in either case; I just did what I did because no one was going to stop me, and it seemed like a good or fun idea at the time. You're just as dead in either case, true, but it's also true that I'm the ultimate cause of your death, either way.

Reasonable people will conclude:

My actions had forseeable consequences.

My actions inflicted deliberate harm.

My actions showed a callous disgregard for your life or rights.

That second scenario may not meet that "statutory" definition of murer, but it sure as hell is. At that point, fuck the fine, lawyerly distinctions. Let the DA make the argument for a murder charge is he/she can, and then see what other charges you can make stick.

These kids (if guilty) deserve no less.

Almost Ali said...

"Lord of The Flies" was nonsense. Complete and utter nonsense. The kind of liberal scenario cooked up by cannabis sativa.

bagoh20 said...

"These kids (if guilty) deserve no less."

What if the bullying was mild and the victim committed suicide anyway out of irrationality. The same as repeated stabbing in the chest? Really?

Which would you prefer for your daughter: just been stabbed or just been bullied? Which do you think you could do something about?

SkyDaddy said...

My dad had a solution to situations like this.

Give the father of the dead girl thirty minutes alone in a locked room with each of the perps, no questions asked.

Joseph said...

"violation of civil rights with bodily injury...Private citizens can commit civil rights violations?"

I assume this refers to sexual harassment or sexual assault, which could violate Title IX.

Paul Zrimsek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shanna said...

My actions had forseeable consequences.

Suicide is hard to predict for professionals, I’m not sure teenagers are capable of doing so.
Again, I always think about this boy in high school who killed himself because his gf broke up with him (he actually killed himself in her yard too, btw). Was that a forseeable consequence? Should she be held liable? I just don’t think it’s the same thing at all.

The time to take care of this was before the suicide. The bullies at this point, if they have a shred of ability to care, should be chastened. If not, they are little monsters. Prosecuting is not going to change any of that.

Matthew said...

@ BagoH20;

"...What if the bullying was mild and the victim committed suicide anyway out of irrationality. The same as repeated stabbing in the chest? Really?..."

I can surmise from that that you have very little experience with mental illnesses and how they affect people. You assume that if the girl killed herself then there must have been an underlying problem her bullies exacerbated -- they just happened to be totally unaware of it.

It's already, I think, established in law that if I pushed a man with a cardiac disease, by threat of force, to extert himself and he died of a crononary failure, then I'm guilty of manslaughter. I may not have intended that he have a heart attack, but ignorance of his underlying susceptibility to that heart attack is no defense.

It happens quite frequently that people suffer psychological issues as a result of continuous stress. An otherwise well-adjuested and happy person can be systematically reduced to aquivering mass of jelly by the actions of others, deliberate or not. The external pressure becomes internalized and even when the stress is reduced (by, say, removing yourself from the source(s) of stress), you still carry the experience with you.

Where no outlet or means of relief exists (in this case, someone in authority who will put an end to the ordeal), it's usually only a matter of time before the stressed individual begins to seriously hurt themselves, or commits suicide.

The problem is that the cumulative effects of the stress steadily robs them of the ability to make rational decisions, and often causes them to give inner-voice to doubt their own humanity.

The question: Did Phoebe Prince have a mental disorder that made her susceptible to suicide, or did she "acquire" one as a result of exposure to continuous psychological torture, is the wrong question to ask.

"...Which would you prefer for your daughter: just been stabbed or just been bullied? Which do you think you could do something about?
..."

Actually, I could do something about both of these scenarios, but since we no longer observe the prinicples of honor in this country, I'd be sent to jail for my actions, sans a sympathetic jury and judge. Given what is known about this case, I certainly wouldn't have left it to "The School" to do something. My first stop would have been someone's front door to complain about their kid, my second stop would have been the cops, and if I still hadn't gotten any satisfaction, my daughter would have been encouraged to go out and kick some ass. I'd back her up, too.

traditionalguy said...

Professor...You are spot on that the Prosecutorial excess smells to high heaven in this governmental exercise in PR and high handedness. Where conservative types are leaning to Jeremy's thoughts is on a basic issue of whether the "Authorities" now covering up their ignoring of their jobs to protect those under their care are absolvable by this "over-prosecuting when it is too late" trick. It is an abuse by an activist prosecuter and his favorite media friends. The Collectivists never respect rights of individuals that they are sacrificing to public hatreds that they ginned up themselves to look like they are doing something.

Exordium said...

Ann, I know you know this already, but you're a terrible person for writing this. You always seem to come down on the idiotic, cold-hearted side of any issue. The term "glibertarian" fits you to a T.

This young lady hung herself not knowing, and probably not caring or thinking about whether her tormenters would be punished. Here's the motive behind 99% of suicides: The pain is too great, I want to end the pain, and if I have to end my life to end that pain, so be it. If we're not going to punish kids for torturing a fellow student to the grave, what the hell WILL we punish them for?

Do you honestly think these kids should get away scot-free? Does this pattern of extreme abuse from these kids not indicate they've got serious problems with a lack of conscience? School bullies become workplace bullies. These kids are bad seeds.

I get the feeling you don't know all of the details of this story but felt like spouting a half-baked opinion that is guaranteed to piss people off and, more importantly, get you linked on Instapundit so you can get more traffic. You're a whore for traffic, you're a troll, you're a piece of shit. Stop writing; You're embarrassing yourself.

Sheep said...

Let me get this straight, you can't treat an arrested felon (or terrorist) the way those kids treated her but there's no crime committed?

I don't think so.

Matthew said...

"...Suicide is hard to predict for professionals, I’m not sure teenagers are capable of doing so.
Again, I always think about this boy in high school who killed himself because his gf broke up with him (he actually killed himself in her yard too, btw). Was that a forseeable consequence?.."

And I know (or rather, knew) a guy, NYPD officer, who ate his own gun because the CIy of New York sent his two shoeboxes full of what are assumed to be his brother's pulverized remains...with three years between deliveries.

And both times they showed up on his doorstep, they brought a chaplain and a grief counselor along (certainly professionals, no?). Do you think they sent them because they expected him to behave in a rational and dispassionate manner? No, rather, they expected him to do something drastic and took a precaustion. He just decided to shoot himself three days after they all left.

Yes, I know the circumstances are dissimilar, but in either case we're dealing with an extremely emotional circumstance. There's a difference between the unintentional infliction of psychic pain upon an individual by someone who normally wouldn't hurt a fly, or who had their best interests at heart, and a systematic program of abuse (allegedly) directed by a group of people with no sense of decency and empathy at an apparent target of opportunity.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Let me get this straight, you can't treat an arrested felon (or terrorist) the way those kids treated her but there's no crime committed?

Late in the thread but I think we have a winner.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Again, I always think about this boy in high school who killed himself because his gf broke up with him (he actually killed himself in her yard too, btw). Was that a forseeable consequence?.."

Severing relationships is a normal part of life. Sending texts threatening harm and stalking isn't. I would think the distinction between being distraught over being dumped by a lover and being in fear of bodily harm by a group of people is pretty obvious.

I also think her being an immigrant had a lot to do with her suicide; in a new country and having to face irrationally hostile kids daily? I wonder if her parents voiced any concern or if they were aware?

Again I don't know if charging the 9 asshats criminally is the way to go but the flipside is that these asshats need to learn there are consequences for actions which if sorely lacking among the youts of today (which explains much of their Lord of the Flies behavior)

bagoh20 said...

"Let me get this straight, you can't treat an arrested felon (or terrorist) the way those kids treated her but there's no crime committed?"

Normally, there would be a huge difference, but the state requirement to attend school, even under these conditions with them doing nothing about it, makes your point cogent.

bagoh20 said...

I hope none of the commenters on Althouse ever off themselves. According to some, a lot here would be guilty of manslaughter or even murder.

I want to put you all on notice that I am pretty sensitive.

William said...

Althouse feels that prosecutorial zeal will blight the lives of these little pricks. Fat chance. Guilt and shame are inversely proportional to the crimes committed. Old ladies worry about missing Mass; mass murderers fret about how unfair life has been to them. If Althouse can make a case that this girl was a self murderer, you can be sure that her tormentors have already pled a similar argument before the high court of their conscience. That tribunal has dropped all charges against them. These kids were cruel beyond the common ken, and I'm glad that something bad is happening to them.

SarahW said...

Disgraceful, Ann. The kids aren't charged with murdering this girl. They are charged with crimes people saw them commit - and have admitted.
And following the girls death, said she deserved.

They committed acts against her that would send an adult to jail. They threw objects at her, threw her into lockers, knocked things out of her hands; they not only called her names, they stalked her, threatened her (with physical violence), and as the charges show, disrupted school assemblies to do it.

What should have happened is criminal charges should have been filed after the first physical assault. And acts in the school building should have been cause for suspension or expulsion.

rjschwarz said...

On the other hand, the standard lately has been to do a Columbine style attack suicide by cop route. Does arresting the bullies make that more or less likely?

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