When we ran our April 26 cover story about the tragic suicide of Phoebe Prince, horrified letters and calls poured in. Readers related their own experiences with bullying, their grief over Phoebe’s fate and-perhaps most important-they shared with us their fears for their own children’s safety and well-being. One mother begged us to write a story about her son before it was too late. It was clear that Phoebe’s death resonated far beyond her hometown of South Hadley, Mass. In response to this reader demand, PEOPLE decided to devote a special portion of this week’s issue to the complex topic of bullying and to team up with our corporate sibling, CNN, for a weeklong Anderson Cooper 360 series beginning Oct. 4, culminating in a special Town Hall in partnership with Cartoon Network and CNN on Friday, Oct. 8 at 10 p.m.
The shocking suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, 18, on Sept. 22-along with the other recent bullying-related deaths of Seth Walsh, 13, Asher Brown, 13, and Billy Lucas, 15-only helps to highlight the urgency of our 14-page section this week. In a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted in September, two-thirds of the 500 teens questioned say that their friends have been threatened or humiliated by another child. We hope the stories that follow-including moving portraits of teens tormented because of race, sexual orientation or for no apparent reason; a remarkable tale about how a former bully turned his life around; an in-depth look at South Hadley in the months since Phoebe’s death; and much more-will help to prevent other young people from following Tyler and Phoebe’s sad path.
LARRY HACKETT, MANAGING EDITOR