So I was reading this article on the Phoebe Prince situation and the aftermath. First of all, it’s a good article and a valuable piece because it’s important to read a logical, articulate piece that runs contrary to the dominant reporting in the media. So check it out. And while you’re at it, check out the interview with Flannery Mullins (one of the girls involved).
Overall, the tone of these pieces is very sympathetic to the kids who were in conflict with Phoebe before she died. To be honest, I have limited sympathy because I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the bullying that girls do. I did go to middle school like a normal person, after all. But then again, I am perfectly aware that because of what I’ve experienced, I have a hard time being rational about all this.
In these pieces, the conflict has been chalked up to “normal teenage drama.” Well, why is it “normal,” hmmm? Perhaps because we allow it? In her interview, Flannery said that in hindsight, she would have talked to Phoebe directly about all the rumors that were circulating instead of reacting aggressively. Oh? And what does it take to learn these lessons? Is it possible to teach teens to treat each other like human beings WITHOUT heaping felony charges on them for “normal” (but unjustifiable) teenage drama?
The naïve side of me wants to say that “well, maybe these teens strung up on the gallows of public opinion will serve as an example to other teens who would otherwise bully.” But the realistic side of me understands that the LAST word you can reliably use to describe people (let alone teens) is rational.
So … what was the point of charging them with everything but the kitchen sink? The DA (Elizabeth Scheibel) HAD to have known (unless she was totally incompetent) that the charges would never stick. You know, burden of proof on the prosecution and all. There’s a possibility that maybe she was bullied as a pre-teen / teen and she was emotionally sensitive to the issue (I didn’t find anything) in which case she was unfit, if she couldn’t get past it to be impartial at her job.
Emily Bazelon makes the case that Scheibel has a history of overreaching. The prime example she provides was of a 17-year-old who put his hand inside the back of a gay student’s pants and put a finger in his butt. (!) Call me crazy, but that goes FAR beyond “normal drama” in my book. And why would you even want to do something like that? Gross. Anyway, Scheibel’s office prosecuted the kid (good!) and recommended some prison time, probation, and a listing on the sex offender registry. We don’t know the outcome yet (I couldn’t find any sort of final outcome) but the kid came out in support of the kids accused in Phoebe’s death, saying, “I can relate to him probably really well because I know what its like to fuck up and make a mistake and have your whole life spiral downwards on you in the blink of an eye.” Hmmm. Excuse me while I cry a river for this poor, innocent soul … maybe not. I can tell by the way this is written that I am supposed to feel sorry for the kid, but why should I? Need I remind you, he stuck a finger in a gay kid’s butt. Yes, I would argue that it’s abnormal behavior to the degree that some sex offender registry time would be appropriate.
In response to the idea that she is overzealous, Scheibel said: “I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve been working with ‘blame the victim’ and ‘you overreach’ and all that. I don’t agree with [Bazelon’s] assessment, that’s all.” That was all I found on Scheibel’s response. Bazelon’s article quotes an online bio of her where a childhood friend described how she beat up a bully who was picking on her younger brother (you go, girl!), but when I tried to follow the link it was no longer there. Hmmm. But that’s all the background info I found. (If you find anything, let me know please.)
The accused kids had some pretty serious repercussions – the irrational part of me says “Good! They deserve it! Normal teenage drama, my foot.” But the rational part of me says, “Now, now – the punishment should fit the crime. And it doesn’t.”
This is one of those situations that make me glad it’s not my responsibility to run the world. What about you? What would you have done differently if it were up to you?