Phoebe Prince bullies sentenced, but how do they make things right?
May 09, 2011
Five teens who faced criminal charges for bullying in connection with the 2010 suicide of Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, Mass., have been sentenced to probation and community service.
While the courtroom chapter of the drama in central Massachusetts is largely over, bullying-prevention advocates hope that the work of “restorative justice” has just begun. Now, they say, the defendants should use their experience to help other young people steer clear of bullying and the deep harm it causes.
“These are roles these kids play, and we want to ... have them rewrite their own script,” says Barbara Coloroso, an educator and author on bullying. What’s needed, she says, is “accountability where justice is served for the family and healing takes place” – rather than either of the two extremes that some in the public have called for: locking up the teens or not holding them accountable at all.
After the teens have admitted they’ve done wrong, the next step in restorative justice is to fix what they can, Ms. Coloroso says. While they can’t undo Ms. Prince’s death, they should take steps to remove from the Internet the hurtful comments they made about her, Coloroso says. Second, they should work to ensure they never engage in bullying again, and she hopes they’ll go into schools to do preventive work.
Third, she says, they should privately make some attempt to reconcile with Prince’s family, when the family is ready. (The court ordered that they not have contact with the family unless the family consents.)