Nine teens face criminal charges for their actions surrounding the recent suicide of a ninth grader at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts. According to the prosecutor in the case, the victim, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, took her own life after students harassed her relentlessly, subjecting her to conduct that “far exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship-related quarrels.” Although some of the harassment is said to have occurred on social networking sites, the majority of the abuse allegedly occurred on school grounds while school was in session. In a recent news conference, the prosecutor suggested that school officials knew about the harassment but did not stop it. Although the conduct of school officials did not violate the law, the prosecutor said, “the actions or inactions of some adults at the school were troublesome.”

The case emphasizes the point that bullying in school is a serious issue that can have both tragic consequences as well as serious legal implications. The Massachusetts legislature is reportedly in the process of developing an anti-bullying law that, among other things, would require staff members to report suspected bullying incidents. Connecticut currently has an anti-bullying statute in place that has undergone significant revision in recent years. Connecticut’s prescriptive law requires boards of education to adopt and implement policies related to bullying, which policies must include a number of detailed provisions. To review the text of Connecticut’s bullying law, please click here.  To read more about the Prince case, please click here.