Alleged Teen Bullies Plead Not Guilty: 'What About the Adults?'

Teen?s suicide prompts a look at bullyingABC News
Phoebe Prince died in an apparent suicide, after incessant bullying by classmates at the 700-student high school.

Three of the nine Massachusetts teens charged in connection with the suicide of a 15-year-old girl pleaded not guilty today through their lawyers.

Sean Mulveyhill, 17, and Austin Renaud, 18, were charged with the statutory rape of Phoebe Prince. Charges against Kayla Narey, 17, include civil rights violations and harassment.

Phoebe, a student at South Hadley High School, hanged herself at home Jan. 14 after a long period of what prosecutors called unrelenting harassment.

School officials should be held accountable for her death because they knew she was being bullied, a friend and spokeswoman for her family said earlier today.

"You've got a number of kids who've been charged with severe charges; what about the adults that supervised the school?" Darby O'Brien said today on "Good Morning America."

VIDEO: Nine high school teens face charges for bullying after a peer committed suicide.Play
Teens to Be Arraigned in Bullying Case

Nine students, including the captain of the high school football team, have been charged in connection with Phoebe's death.

O'Brien said school superintendent Gus Sayer, school committee chairman Edward Boisselle and principal Dan Smith "are clueless and they've been clueless since the beginning."

Sayer has maintained that the school only learned of the bullying shortly before the teen's suicide. The school board said it would review the evidence from the district attorney's investigation, which it said had not come to light in its own investigation.

O'Brien said today that Phoebe's aunt spoke to the school at the beginning of the year and that her mother, Ann Prince, "had been in in early November" to discuss the situation.

But since Phoebe's death, O'Brien said, "the superintendent has said they never heard from the Prince family ... they said that to me.

"I think what it gets down to [is], you had principal Smith conducting the investigation that involved him and his staff. ... It was slow to start fast to finish," O'Brien said. "The question the public has is, 'Who are you going to trust?'"

O'Brien also questioned why an emergency session of the school committee hasn't been called since the charges were filed.

Classmate of Phoebe Prince Bullied

The father of a girl who he says was harshly bullied by some of the same teens charged in connection with Phoebe's suicide said he has experienced guilt about having sent his daughter to South Hadley High School.

"I feel mortified," Brouillard told "Good Morning America." "I sent my kid to the school hoping she would be safe."

His 17-year-old daughter was tormented for years, Brouillard said.

"They came up behind her, slammed her into the locker and this one individual just beat the tar out of her," he said. "She's endured mental abuse with all the media out there as far as Facebook and text messaging. This was a 24/7 ordeal for her."

It was an apparent ordeal for Phoebe, too.

In announcing the charges against the nine teens last week, Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel described a "nearly three-month campaign" of verbal assaults and threats.

In at least one instance, a girl allegedly hit Phoebe with a soft drink can.

All but one of the students declined to comment to ABC News.

Colin Keefe, an attorney for one of the suspects, said his client, Sharon Velazquez, 16, had been "tried and convicted unfairly by the general public.

"This is someone who could be your next door neighbor, it could be your daughter," he said.

Keefe said his client is now the focus of threats herself.

"She has been receiving significant harassment over the Internet and in other ways," he said. "My client and her family are very concerned for their overall well-being."

Death Shook South Hadley

Phoebe came to the United States from Ireland in the fall of 2009. In her brief time in the country, authorities said, students at South Hadley High School relentlessly tormented her at school, via text message and through the social networking site, Facebook.

A freshman, Phoebe was reportedly harassed by older girls who resented her dating an older football player. The relationship ended weeks before the suicide, but the bullying allegedly continued.

Her death shook the town of South Hadley and prompted the Massachusetts legislature to pass a law introducing an anti-bullying curriculum in the state's public schools. Studies show that between 15 and 25 percent of U.S. students are bullied with some frequency, while 15 to 20 percent report that they bully others with some frequency, according to statistics cited by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Brouillard said his daughter also experiences a certain amount of guilt about what happened to Phoebe. She wishes she could have done more to stop the bullying, he said.

He said he had gone to the administration and "begged them for help and begged them to remove these kids from school."

The incident also has unleashed outrage about the lack of charges against adults at the school, although administrators were apparently aware of the behavior.

"The investigation revealed relentless activity directed toward Phoebe, designed to humiliate her and to make it impossible for her to remain at school," prosecutor Scheibel said. "The bullying, for her, became intolerable.

"Nevertheless, the actions -- or inactions -- of some adults at the school are troublesome," she said.

Six of the teens will be indicted this week on charges connected to Phoebe's suicide. Three of the indicted students are girls, charged with violating Phoebe's civil rights, criminal harassment and disturbing a school assembly.

Of the six indicted students, three are still students at the school and three were expelled in February.

A New, Anti-Bullying Task Force

Sayer, the school superintendent, had no comment on the growing calls for his resignation. But many people hope the charges and the implementation of an anti-bullying task force will make South Hadley the poster town for change.

"We are the focus now," parent Brouillard said, "and we should be the ones to have the solution at hand and offer it to other communities."

ABC News' Russell Goldman contributed to this report.

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