I'm Sure this Sounds Callous.

I'm feeling sort of conflicted about the whole Phoebe Prince thing. My opinions on the matter seem to be in direct opposition to what I'd like to think I believe, but since I believe what I'm going to say here, they must not be.

1. Nobody kills themselves soley because they're bullied. Depression is a disease. Suicide comes when that disease is untreated, poorly treated or just too bad to fix. It's like cancer. Phoebe Prince had a history of depression. She'd attempted suicide at least once before the bullying began, and was a cutter (which, in case you aren't aware, isn't the same thing at all as attempted suicide). Phoebe missed her father, who stayed in Ireland after her parents' divorce. There were a lot of factors at play here besides some mean kids. I think that to say that she killed herself because of the bullying makes it seem like her depression is less of a factor. It makes it taken less seriously as an illness, and that isn't good for anyone.

2. The mean kids weren't all that mean. Some names were called, to her face and on Facebook/Twitter/passed notes. (I read the full report, so don't anybody jump on me about how I don't know how bad it was.) Slut, cunt, bitch, whore, nothing that unusual, particularly since the girls doing most of the name calling were jealous that Phoebe had hooked up with their boyfriends while they were "on a break." It's standard teenage drama. And yeah, she was probably upset about it, who wouldn't be? However, none of those names seem cruel enough, on their own, to drive someone over the edge. Even a fragile teenager. And ok, one girl threw an (empty) soda can at her from a car window. She's been charged with "assault with a deadly weapon." What the hell? Exactly how hard did she throw that can? An empty aluminum can weighs about .05 ounces. It would have to have been tossed off by a rocket launcher or something equally impressive to have caused any actual harm to anyone. Assault? Sure, but not with a deadly weapon, to say the least the packet of ranch dressing that came with my salad would have made more of an impact. I understand the need to for schools and communities to take a tougher stand on bullying, but the DA in this case is clearly trying to make an example of these kids (along with a name for herself), and that seems unfair. What they did was crappy and wrong, but suspend them from school. Take away their cars, ground them for the summer. Hell, ground them until they're married, but don't send them to jail for 10 years. That's just ridiculous, and it isn't going to help anyone.

3. Bullying is (sort of) protected under the First Amendment. The things the teens said at school can (and should have) been dealt with by the administration. None of them made any threats, so it doesn't count as assault. Technically, they could be charged with misdemeanor harrassment, but the trouble didn't even go on long enough for it to seep over into the felony category. Once again, the kids were assholes, not criminals. If we start prosecuting every kid that says something mean or snarky to somebody at school or online, where will it stop? They'd have to shut down FoxNews all together, not to mention arrest every politician that ever ran a smear ad. With the exception of my friend Amanda, everyone in the country would be spending some time in jail for bullying. I believe in pretty big government, but not anywhere near that big.

4. I can't even bring up the statuatory rape charges leveled at the two boys in this case. It's the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time. Enough said.

So that's where I am. I think the kids were jerks. I think they should have gotten in trouble with their school and their parents for being jerky, schools should have tough anti-bullying policies and they should be enforced. If the bullying bleeds over into hate-crime territory against black kids, or gay kids or, whatever-minority-kids, someone should bring in the big guns. And somebody at that school should have noticed the ugliness before Phoebe killed herself, but who's to say she wouldn't have done it anyway? And that's sad. It's terrible when a smart, pretty girl takes her own life, no matter what the circumstances are. I completely understand the drive to make somebody pay for that. (Trust me, I'm a -huge- fan of vigilante justice.) The problem in this case is that they're going after the wrong people. The blame for Phoebe Prince's death should go to her disease, not her classmates. Prosecuting people for nastiness can't possibly lead anywhere good, and the erosion of basic freedoms won't stop people from feeling out of place, out of sorts, out of their minds when they're teenagers.

This sort of craziness needs to stop somewhere. I know this entry won't make me particularly popular. I know that people will call me heartless, and bitchy (and maybe they'll go to jail for it...).I'm sure someone will say that I don't understand how bad it hurts when someone is mean to you, but I do. I'm not heartless, I feel terrible for Phoebe's family, and my heart breaks for her, because feeling so much pain that you think you can't stand it anymore isn't something anyone should have to endure. The thing is, ruining the lives of six other teenagers and their families isn't going to fix that.

2 comments:

Toddy said...

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