Prince family complaint against South Hadley High School

PAUL S. DOHERTY PHILIP J. CALLAN. JR GARY P. SHANNON ROBERT L. LEONARD A.

CRAIG BROWN

L. JEFFREY MEEHAN JOHN J. MCCARTHY DAVID J. MARTELl:

BARRY M. RYAN DEBORAH A. BASllEt PAUL M. MALECK

W. GARTH JANES" GREGORY A. SCHMIDT MICHAEL K. CALLAN' MICHAEL D. SWEEP THOMAS M. GRbWHOSKI BRENDA S. DOHERTY MICHELE A. ROOKE KAREN K. CHADWELL't GREGORY M. SCHMIDT REBECCA l. BOUCHARD' MICHAEL S. SCHNEIDER' JESSE BELCHER-TIMME JOSE A. AGUIAR'

ATTORNEYS AT LAW

ONE MONARCH PLACE, SUITE 1900 SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS 01144-1900

TELEPHONE (41.3) 733-3111

FAX (413) 734-391Q

COUNSEL CLAIRE l. THOMPSON ROSEMARY CROWLEY'"

DOHERTY, WALLACE, PILLSBURY AND MURPHY, P.C.

60 STATE STREET NORTHAMPTON. MA 01060

TELEPHONE (413) 584-1500 FAX (413) 584-1670

DUDLEY B. WALLACE (1900-1987)

LOUIS W. DOHERTY (1898-1990) FREDERICK S. PILLSBURY (1919-1996) ROBERT E. MURPHY (1919-2003) SAMUEL A. MARSELLA

(1931-2004)

t REGISTERED PATENT ATTORNEY • ALSO ADMITTED IN CONNECTlCUT * ALSO ADMITTED IN NEW YORK

•• ALSO ADMITTED IN DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ••• ALSO ADMITTED IN SOUTH CAROLINA

www.dwpm.com

email: rbouchard@dwpm.com

July 13, 2010

VIA HAND DELNERY

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination 436 Dwight Street, Room 220 Springfield, MA 01103

Re: Anne 0 'Brien and William Allan Jeremy Prince, individually, and as Administrators and Beneficiaries of the Estate of Phoebe Nora Mary Prince

v. South Hadley Public Schools; Gus Sayer, Superintendent; Dan Smith, Principal; and William Evans, Vice Principal.

Dear Sir/Madam:

Enclosed for filing please find an original and a copy of the Complaint which has been affirmed by Anne O'Brien, individually, and as Administrator of the Estate of Phoebe Nora Mary Prince. Kindly contact me with any questions and copy me with all notices and documentation involving this case.

Robert L. Leonard

RLLlsb Enclosure

456998.1

THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS COMMISSION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

FEPANO.: 10-22 ... 0\ 2?O$ EEOC:

FILING DATE: July 13, 2010

MOST RECENT

VIOLATION DATE: January 14, 2010

-----------------------------------------------------~-------------------------------------------~-------~--------------

NAME OF AGGRIEVED PERSON OR ORGANIZATION:

Anne O'Brien and William Allan Jeremy Prince, individually, and as Administrators and Beneficiaries of the Estate of Phoebe Nora Mary Prince,

c/o Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury & Murphy, P.C. 1414 Main Street, 19th Floor

Springfield, MA 01144

TELEPHONE NUMBER:

HOME:

WORK: 413-733-3111

NAME OF THE EMPLOYER, LABOR ORGANIZATION, EMPLOYMENT AGENCY, OR STATEILOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY WHO DISCRIMINATED AGAINST ME:

South Hadley Public Schools Town Hall, 116 Main Street South Hadley, MA 01075

Gus Sayer, Superintendent South Hadley Public Schools Town Hall, 116 Main Street South Hadley, MA 01075

Dan Smith, Principal South Hadley High School 153 Newton Street

South Hadley, MA, 01075

William Evans, Vice Principal South Hadley High School 153 Newton Street

South Hadley, MA, 01075

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TELEPHONE NUMBER: 413-538-5060

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 25+

TELEPHONE NUMBER: 413-538-5060

TELEPHONE NUMBER: 413-538-5063

TELEPHONE NUMBER: 413-538-5063

ORIGINAL

CAUSE OF DISCRIMINATION BASED ON:

Sexual harassment in an educational institution.

The particulars are:

William Allan Jeremy Prince and I, Anne O'Brien Prince, are the parents of Phoebe Nora Mary Prince and the Administrators of her Estate. Phoebe Nora Mary Prince ("Phoebe") was a student at the South Hadley High School during the 2009-2010 school year until the time of her death on January 14, 2010. During that time Phoebe was subjected to verbal and physical conduct which had the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with her education by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive educational environment, which constitutes an unfair educational practice under M.G.L. c. 1SlC. See also M.G.L. c. 214, §lC.

1.

Phoebe was born in November 1994. She lived in Ireland prior to moving to South Hadley.

2.

Phoebe resided on Newton Street in South Hadley from August 2009 until the date of her death on January 14, 2010.

3.

South Hadley Public Schools (the "District") is a public school district in the town of South Hadley. South Hadley High School is located at 1S3 Newton Street

In September 2009, Phoebe entered South Hadley High School (the "School") as a 9th grade student.

4.

5.

During the time that she attended the School, Phoebe was subjected to hostile and abusive verbal and physical conduct which had the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with her education by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating and sexually offensive

educational environment.

6.

During the time that Phoebe attended the School, she was subjected to epithets such as "whore," "bitch," "'ho," "slut," and "cunt." Such epithets were sometimesjoined with reference to her national origin, "Irish." Phoebe was also subj ected to physical threats and

assaults in connection with the epithets.

7.

This conduct intensified in December and into January. Specifically, on or about January 6th, 2010, a student ("Student A") stated in front of other students in a gym class that Phoebe was an "Irish slut" and a "whore" and that she "should get her ass kicked" because she was "trying to get with" Student A's "boyfriend."

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2

8.

This threat of physical attack and verbally abusive language was overheard by the teacher. The teacher did not discipline or otherwise admonish Student A for the illegal conduct. The teacher later reported the threat and language to one of the School's vice principals, William Evans ("Mr. Evans'').

9.

News of this incident spread around the School and, upon hearing of it, Phoebe was traumatized.

10.

On or about January 7,2010, Mr. Evans called Student A to his office and "counseled her" regarding this incident. Following the meeting with Student A, Mr. Evans and the School took no action to discipline Student A or protect Phoebe despite the fact that Student A had violated the School's rules with respect to use of obscene and abusive language, including sexual slurs, and threatening a physical attack.

11.

Mr. Evans subsequently called Phoebe to his office, at which time he also "counseled her," advising her to stay away from the male student.

12.

On or about January 8,2010, Phoebe was again called a whore and a slut in front of myriad other students. This physical and verbal harassment was by Student B, one of Student A's friends.

13.

On the first occasion, Student B approached Phoebe at a lunch table and started yelling at her, calling her a slut and a whore or "ho" along with other vulgar and obscene statements.

14.

Shortly thereafter, Phoebe went to Mr. Evans to report what had happened to her. Phoebe

. was traumatized. Mr. Evans told her he would deal with it and get back to her; he then sent her back to class.

15.

Shortly thereafter, Student A and Student B were walking in the hallway together toward Phoebe. Phoebe left the hallway and entered her classroom. Student B followed Phoebe into the classroom and verbally abused and assaulted her again, calling her a slut and a whore. Student A stood in the hallway, watching and laughing. Eventually, another student intervened and dragged Student Bout of the classroom. Phoebe's teacher comforted her while she wept and then reported the incident to the principals' office.

16.

Mr. Evans met with Student B, who admitted verbally assaulting and threatening Phoebe and calling her vulgar and offensive epithets such as "whore," "bitch," '''ho,'' "slut," and "cunt." Student B was suspended for the remaining one class period that day and one additional day despite the fact that she had violated the School's rules with respect to verbal assaults, use of obscene and abusive language, including sexual slurs, sexual. harassment, and threatening a physical attack-conduct which called for a more stnngent

response according to the School's Student Handbook

Mr Evans never told Phoebe what action was taken concerning Student B. Neither .

Mr. Evans nor any other administrator contacted Phoebe's parents to address the harassing

conduct.

17.

3

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18. No School official ever addressed with Student A the fact that she motivated her friend, Student B, to engage in a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Phoebe.

19. A few days after her suspension, Student B passed Phoebe in the hallway, pointed her out, and again loudly called her a whore and an Irish slut.

20. On Wednesday, January 13,2010, Phoebe expressed that she was being targeted by her peers, that the harassment included threats against her, and that her treatment at school was intolerable.

21. On January 14, 2010, several students were in the library at the same time as Phoebe. One of them, Student C, screamed at Phoebe from across the library, calling her an Irish whore, on and off for several minutes.

22. Two other students, Student D and Student E, were present with Student C throughout this time period. One of these two students wrote "Irish bitch" and "is a cunt" next to Phoebe's name on the library sign-in sheet.

23. The School provided no supervision in the library at the time of the incident.

24. Later that day, Student E passed by Phoebe in the hall and stated "I hate Irish sluts."

25. At the end of the school day, near one of the school exits, Phoebe was again subjected to verbal harassment and physical assault by Student C who, in front of a crowd of onlookers, ''went off' on Phoebe, calling her vulgar sexual slurs.

26. Thereafter, Student C left the school parking lot in a friend's car. Phoebe had left school grounds and was walking home. When the vehicle in which Student C was riding passed Phoebe, Student C took a beverage can and threw it at her, yelling something degrading at her like ''whore.''

27. Phoebe was crying as she walked home. She sent several text messages to friends regarding the verbal abuse and harassment that she was subjected to at the School and her despair that resulted from it. She took her own life shortly thereafter.

28. The repeated, sexually degrading, gender-specific epithets, such as "slut," "cunt," "whore," and "bitch," with which Phoebe was barraged at the School constitute harassment based upon sex.

29. South Hadley Public Schools; Superintendent, Gus Sayer; Principal, Dan Smith; Vice Principal, William Evans and other members of the School staff, failed to adequately address or remedy the harassing conduct ofthe School's students which had the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with Phoebe's

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THE COMPLAINANTS,

education by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating and sexually offensive educational environment.

30. As a result of the acts and omissions of the South Hadley Public Schools, Superintendent Gus Sayer, Principal Dan Smith, Vice Principal William Evans and other members of the School's staff, in violation ofM.G.L. c. ISlC andM.G.L. c. 214, §IC, Phoebe suffered damages, including but not limited to, severe emotional distress and humiliation.

I swear or affirm that I have read this Complaint and that it is true to the best of my knowledge, information and belief.

BY~

Robert L. Leonard, Esq. Rebecca L. Bouchard, Esq. Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury

& Murphy, P.C.

1414 Main Street Springfield, MA 01144

Tel: 413-733-3111; fx: 413-734-3910

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