Should Massachusetts Criminal Law Be Applied To School Bullying?


Massachusetts prosecutor Elizabeth Scheibel faces difficult legal challenges prosecuting nine high school students for bullying in the case that led to a suicide, says the Boston Globe. With no statute criminalizing school bullying, she must rely on a series of laws rarely used in such cases – including those against stalking, civil rights violations, and statutory rape – and convince a jury that a series of those crimes led to Phoebe Prince's death.

“Are these the sorts of charges that would have been filed had there not been a death?'' said Ronald Sullivan Jr., a Harvard law professor. “Is the prosecutor using existing criminal laws in ways that have not been used before in order to vindicate what is, yes, a very horrible tragedy, but a tragedy that may not be recognized by the criminal law?'' Said Dan Small, an ex-federal prosecutor now a Boston defense lawyer: We're not talking about whether these kids should be punished in some normal fashion or be thrown out of school. We're talking about whether they should have criminal records or possibly go to jail. The criminal law is a sledgehammer, not a scalpel, and you're dealing with very tough social issues with a very blunt instrument.''

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