Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Irish teenager Phoebe Prince's suicide outrage sparks mass US backlash

A candlelight vigil at a US school for Irish freshman Phoebe Prince (AP)

Irish teenager Phoebe Prince's suicide has sparked a backlash led by a top-selling US magazine.

The hugely popular People magazine has highlighted Phoebe's "bullicide" on the front of its latest edition, under the headline: 'Bullied To Death?'



The publication is claiming to delve deeper "inside her torment" than before and publishes fresh pictures of one of the so-called "mean girls" who tormented the teenager.



They show Sharon Channon Velazquez as she exited a courthouse where she is facing serious charges relating to Phoebe's suicide on January 14.



People, which is read by around five million Americans, details more horrific details about what drove the 15-year-old to end her life.



Friends have now revealed how she was shoved into lockers and encouraged on Facebook to kill herself.



The fact that her story has made it on to the front of the magazine shows how the tragic story has gripped the US, where legislators are rushing through new anti-bullying laws, known as Phoebe's Law.



Her friends describe to the magazine how her pretty looks attracted attention from boys at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, but also the ire of girls.



Friends say she was "bullied out of sheer jealousy", called "an Irish whore" and told to "close your legs".



Ms Velazquez is alleged to have screamed at her: "You have to stop being a ho." Six teenagers are facing a range of charges including statutory rape, stalking and criminal harassment.



In a recreation of her final hours, People says that she was "skipping around" in the morning but her mood deteriorated as the day went on.



A pal describes how she was targeted with a "barrage of vicious taunts and vulgar insults".



At first she sought solace in her iPod, about which she had once written: "I have a song for every moment and mood of my day."



But after lunch Phoebe seemed increasingly downbeat. She described an incident of bullying to friends and said: "I'll find a way out of this problem," but they never thought that she was talking about killing herself.



Her death was all the more shocking to friends because she often signed off her text message saying, "life is an opportunity in itself".



Meanwhile, a spokesperson has denied that an Irish American school cop knew of the bullying before Phoebe's death.



A spokesperson said: "Nothing was reported to him. He knew Phoebe Prince. He had instructed a class that she was in.



"In early November he spoke with her. He's Irish, she was Irish and they formed a conversation about Ireland and about how beautiful the scenery was there.



"So, he did have interaction with her and he knew her through a class. She did not report any inappropriate activities to him."

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