Saturday, April 03, 2010

South Hadley Prosecution Logic (or lackthereof)

I'd think that the parents who send their students to South Hadley deserve a better explanation as to why the Northwestern District Attorney, Elizabeth Scheibel, is prosecuting the teenagers accused of taunting, harassing, and threatening Pheobe Prince, the 15-year-old girl who committed suicide, but not the teachers and school administrators who did nothing to stop it. The teachers may have, as Scheibel claims, lacked "understanding of harassment associated with teen dating relationships'," but they knew what harassment was.

They know what epithets are and are expected to know so that they can enforce the schools' rules and procedures if and when a student is harassed by his or her fellow peers. Calling a person a "slut" and threatening bodily injury is wrong, whether motive can be attributed to jealousy, a power trip, or your run-of-the-mill teen breakup. And the teachers know that. They are expected to know more than the students in their care so the claim that the students can be charged because their knowledge about what does and does not constitutes harassment is more developed than the teachers' knowledge seems flimsy at best.

Now, if the teachers who knew about the harassment intervened by interrogated the parties before the situation escalated any further they might have learned about the underlying problems that led to the harassment.

Since I don't have the evidence it would be hard to say whether the prosecutor made the right call. She may have no incriminating evidence to use against the teacher involved but if that is the case she should say that all of the evidence points to the students and none to the teachers who knew about the harassment.

South Hadley parents, meanwhile, must be questioning why the students are being held to a higher legal standard than the authority figures are responsible for them.

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