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Prince pleaded for help at school

But prosecutors say officials sent her back to class

By John R. Ellement and Peter Schworm
Globe Staff / April 9, 2010

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Phoebe Prince, desperate in the face of relentless bullying, turned to school administrators for help a week before she took her own life, prosecutors said yesterday, once pleading with them that she was “scared and wanted to go home’’ to avoid being beaten up by a vengeful classmate.

Prince was sent back to class, where she told a witness that school officials had no plans to intervene and that “she was still going to get beat up,’’ prosecutors said.

The stunning disclosure that Prince herself notified administrators at South Hadley High School about the bullying, an encounter previously unknown even to her family, was made public for the first time yesterday in court documents filed as three of her former schoolmates pleaded not guilty to charges that they tormented the 15-year-old freshman for months.

Prosecutors said Prince was taunted, heckled, threatened, and driven to tears by two groups of teenagers angry about her dating decisions. She was once confronted while waiting for her Latin class to begin, an exchange that left her weeping in her seat in front of a high school instructor. She feared walking down the hallways, prosecutors said, and was even followed into bathrooms by girls who had vowed to beat her up.

On the day before her death, prosecutors said, she told a confidante that school “has been close to intolerable lately’’ and that insults had escalated into threats of physical harm.

School officials, under heavy criticism for failing to protect Prince against an alleged three-month campaign of slurs and intimidation, have insisted that Prince never told them about the bullying and that they only learned about her troubles a week before her death. A subsequent school investigation revealed no previous incidents, officials said.

Prosecutors, in contrast, found that Prince endured months of harassment and physical threats before she hanged herself Jan. 14 after what they have called a “torturous day’’ of bullying.

Yesterday, they asserted that Prince spoke directly with a school administrator about being threatened with violence Jan. 7.

South Hadley Superintendent Gus Sayer could not be reached for comment. He has previously defended the school’s handling of the situation, saying officials were unaware of the extent of the harassment.

Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel has countered that Prince’s mother had spoken with school administrators about her concerns before her daughter’s death and that the bullying of Prince was “common knowledge’’ among students.

Prince’s death and the recent criminal charges brought against six teenagers for allegedly tormenting her have drawn international attention and spurred widespread outrage against the defendants and school officials.

According to prosecutors, Prince, a new student who moved to South Hadley from Ireland, was targeted after she had a brief relationship with a popular senior athlete, Sean Mulveyhill, who is one of those charged with harassing her. Mulveyhill then resumed dating his girlfriend, Kayla Narey, a junior who faces similar charges.

The new court documents also lay out, in painful detail, the final day of her life.

Prince was in the library with friends at the same time as Narey, Mulveyhill, and one of their friends, Ashley Longe, who has also been charged in the case.

Longe began yelling, “I hate stupid sluts,’’ and other, cruder sexual slurs at Prince. She later called her an “Irish whore’’ and wrote similar descriptions on the library sign-in sheets.

At the end of the school day, Longe again yelled degrading sexual comments at Prince in the school auditorium. Mulveyhill, who was charged with statutory rape, encouraged Longe’s behavior and also called Prince a whore. Narey, sitting nearby, was laughing, prosecutors said.

Minutes later, Longe threw an empty drink can from a car at Prince, who was walking home. Longe laughed and called her a whore. Prince, according to the witness, was crying.

Darby O’Brien, a friend of the Prince family, said the family was unaware that Phoebe had made a personal appeal to administrators, but said the disclosure reinforces the family’s contention that officials had sufficient warning to act more vigorously on Prince’s behalf.

“She must have been desperate to make that move,’’ he said. “It [the bullying] couldn’t have gotten much worse, but it did.’’

An unidentified witness told prosecutors about Prince’s mental status after months of verbal assaults. “She definitely didn’t want to fight with the girls in school,’’ the witness was quoted as saying. “She just wanted to keep to herself and keep things the way they were. She wanted people to stop picking on her, to stop being bullied.’’

Michael Cahillane, an assistant district attorney, said prosecutors would not discuss details included in the new filing.

Attorneys for Flannery Mullins, Sharon Chanon Velazquez, and Longe, all 16 and from South Hadley, appeared in Hampshire-Franklin Juvenile Court in Hadley yesterday, where pleas of not delinquent were entered on behalf of their clients. They are being charged both as adults and as youthful offenders with civil rights violations and stalking.

The three others charged with playing roles in Prince’s alleged torment and suicide were arraigned Tuesday in Hampshire Superior Court, with their attorneys entering pleas of not guilty pleas on their behalf. Through their lawyers, Mulveyhill, 17, of South Hadley, and Austin Renaud, 18, of Springfield, pleaded not guilty to statutory rape, and Mulveyhill and Narey, 17, of South Hadley, pleaded not guilty to violation of civil rights, criminal harassment, and disturbance of a school assembly.

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