Friend of Phoebe Prince Who Has Asperger's Says She's Taunted Too


"[Spinney] made a complaint that has been addressed. It was determined not to be bullying," said Sayer. "She was called a name in response to something she said and it wasn't nice for someone to call her a name, but it only becomes bullying when the person is persistent."

"In general, kids who are new to school have difficulties," he said. "It's easier for some kids than others."

Dan Smith, the principal of Spinney's school, declined to comment on the specifics of the allegations and referred all questions to Sayer.

Williams, who says that Spinney has had food thrown at her and been called names by her peers during her two years at South Hadley, wants to see the school put the plan in place to help her client.

"Our concern is not just that kids will be kids and kids are being mean, but that the school will take no action to protect them, and in this case a child with a disability," said Williams.

O'Brien, who owns a public relations firm, was first to contact Williams about Spinney's case.

According to O'Brien, who has become an outspoken critic of the school since Prince's death last year, the school has not done enough to prevent another tragedy from occurring.

"Payton was friendly with Prince. They were friends and in a lot of the same classes and got to know each other," said O'Brien. "Payton used to go home at night and say she was really worried about her friend from Ireland and she was concerned about her."

"Both these girls were new girls and my take on this now is if you're an outsider in South Hadley you're out of luck," he said. "All the outside kids who are not from the town are targets. This is bad [school] leadership."

"I think if you look the other way you're never going to see anything or change anything," said O'Brien. "You can have all the laws and an anti-bullying task force, but what it gets down to is if you see something you have to do something."

Massachusetts High School Deals With Bullying Again

"Now I'd say this tragedy involves eight people. You lost Phoebe Prince, the six kids charged and now Payton Spinney," he said.

Sayer says that accusations that the school has not changed much since Prince's January 2010 suicide are wrong, and that the school has made big strides to change the way they deal with bullying.

Last year, Massachusetts State Legislature also enacted an anti-bullying law which makes schools accountable in reporting incidents that occur between students.

"We've had an anti-bullying task force that has had an enormous amount of involvement, over 350 people, because they were concerned about what happened in our schools," he said. "What we observe is that it's improving the climate in the schools."

Sayer said that the school has received and investigated 75 reports of bullying since the start of the school year, and has improved the system it uses to do so.

"I think there is some belief that we are going to stop bullying, and that's very unrealistic, it exists in every school," said Sayer.

"But we've improved our procedures to responding to to concerns, our record keeping is better and we're doing a better job of contacting parents of bullies," he said. "Parents are alerted more quickly that their child is being bullied or is bullying some other kid."

"We used to do that, but not in every single case. We are now making better judgments."

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