Posted by: Ask Arden | April 5, 2010

Questions for a School on Bullying and a Suicide

This is my response to an article I read 4-2-2010 in The N.Y. Times.

The tragic loss of Phoebe Prince unfortunately will not be the last when it comes to unchecked incidences of hazing, bullying at school, neighborhood and in cyber-space.

Phoebe,a 15 year old sophomore at a high school in South Hadley, Mass., was severely taunted, teased by a clique of popular females after Phoebe had briefly dated a senior football player, an ex-boyfriend of one member of the clique.

Phoebe’s Mom had alerted the school in November and January as well. She was initially met with “ignore it” and unfortunately the administrators response was not strong enough to curtail all of the verbal harassment, Web sites and text messages totally villifying her daughter saying she deserved to die.

The saddest part to this tragedy is that it had happened before. Actually to a young man in Springfield, Mass who had hung himself last fall.

I know that school policy has a zero tolerance for such behavior but the piece that is the most flagrantly ignored is the application and follow through of school policy. In my district, Clarkstown Central in Rockland County, N.Y. and in all our County schools we have had many anti-bullying speakers, proactive programs and active PTA’s, but kids still bully and scapegoats and their parents are most of the time at a loss.

One parent in my practice, with my advice, eventually had to remove her daughter from the school setting after the administration did absolutely nothing to protect her daughter. The teen at that time was 15, on the quiet side, very sweet and was being harassed by three females in her neighborhood and school. This teen after a while swallowed two viles of aspirin in utter frustration and in excruciating emotional pain. I will never forget what she said to me, I couldn’t take it anymore and had to end it. She had no intention of killing herself, she just had to “make it all go away.” She was one of the lucky ones, who survived and thrived.

Am I fully holding the schools lack of reponsiveness for such a horrific loss? No I am not because a child learns such aggressive, violent and disrespectful behavior at home. It all starts at home. Where were the parents of these females during all of this hazing and harassment? It makes me wonder what some of these females have seen, experienced first hand and heard at home.

FYI, in another article, “The Myth of Mean Girls,” 4-2-2010 N.Y.Times In Northhampton, the county seat a few miles from South Hadley, domestic violence calls to police more than tripled in the last four years to nearly 400 in 2009. This certainly raised the red flag for me.

It’s so important for parents to be incredibly pro-active and protective of their children. Our children can not be productive and focusing on being a student both academically and social if they are not safe in their neighborhood, at school and in cyber-space.

I have so many more stories to share about my personal experiences with bullying and in my private practice. So tune in tomorrow and see what we can do as parents to help our children and adolescents navigate those shark infested waters.

Peace and Blessings,



  1. Arden, keep up your terrific work.

  2. I would love to talk to someone who has with school bullying. We had the worst year this last year, which was my daughter’s 6th grade year with bullying. With many emails to teachers, principals, and finally the school superintendent. Unfortunately, no help was given to us. My husband and I were ready to move our child, and are hoping this year will be better. Do we move her, or hold on for another rough ride. It was a jealousy issue with her best friend.

    • I am so sorry that you didn’t get the principal, teachers, superintendent in your corner. Last resort before moving your daughter is to hire a civil rights lawyer. Lots of times the school administrations ears perk up because that would be calling attention to the situation. Try this, but it’s crucial that your daughter is protected. It’s so difficult to concentrate in school when there is a bully taunting, teasing, name calling and trying to control your daugher.
      Please keep me posted.
      Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I am in the midst of re-writes for my book, What Do You Expect? She’s A Teenager! A Hope And Happiness Guide For Moms With Daughters 11-19. It has 15 chapters, one chapter is totally devoted to bullying and my school chapter has some advice in there as well. It will be out in Sept. 2011.

    • I hope you moved your daughter to a different school.
      Keep me posted….

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