Parents and administrators scurry about in Western Mass trying to point the finger of blame on someone for the death of Phoebe Prince, a 15 year old Irish girl who had come to America looking for her American Dream and finding the only peace she could at the end of a rope.
An 11 year old, Joseph Walker-Hoove of Springfield Ma, just down the road, had killed himself by hanging just about a year before. They called him gay. His mother just called him handsome.
Why did Phoebe have to die? Was she too pretty, too international---too attractive to the football star who, as she should have known, belonged only to the girls of South Hadley and no one else.
I could blame it on the town. I know these towns in Western Massachusetts. I chose one of them—Amherst—to raise my sons in. I think I know what makes them tick.
For all the political correctness of Western Mass or Massachusetts in general—these are harshly divided by class and caste. Someone’s got to be the scuffler on the low end of the toten pole, as they say.
Perhaps Phoebe’s was a time warp from the 1800s when “the irish need not apply.” Her charm may have been seen as a bit too uppity for a newcomer.
Who was to blame for students tormenting one another? I’ll tell you what I think—it’s the adults—the $200,000 a year superintendents who rule their schools and town like a feudal barony, intimidating staff, parents and students with smoke and mirrors. These guys hang on to their questionable tenure as schools leader for a lifetime and make a mockery of humane respect and independent thinking.
They say “As long as we nail our SATs and our MCAS tests, everything is just awesome. Until these communities erupt like some Lord of the Flies sequel. Who’s to blame. We are all to blame for letting inhumanity and poor common sense dictate our choices, our elected officials and town governments.
The answer: Trust yourself---Speak up—speak out. Create safe environments for all by sustained dialogue every step of the way.
It’s something to think about. I’m W J O’Reilly