With a strikingly aggressive prosecutorial stance, authorities spelled out a litany of charges against nine teenagers accused of subjecting Phoebe Prince, 15, of South Hadley, Ma., to months of tortuous harassment before she hanged herself in a stairwell at home, the Boston Globe reports. District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel faulted officials at South Hadley High School, saying the girl's harassment had been “common knowledge,'' contradicting administrators' previous assertions that they had been unaware of problems until after her death.
The nature of the charges – ranging from criminal harassment and civil rights violations to stalking and statutory rape – hints at a forceful strategy of taking many legal avenues in the pur suit of convictions, legal specialists said. “It's an aggressive approach,'' said Robert Griffin, a former Suffolk County prosecutor. “They are casting a wide net.'' The vast majority of the bullying took place during the school day, Scheibel said, and online harassment played a secondary role. The school's inaction was “troublesome'' but did not constitute criminal behavior, she said, adding that a lack of “understanding of harassment associated with teen dating relationships'' was prevalent at the school.