Five New England teenagers are facing criminal charges for allegedly harassing a fellow student to the point where she committed herself to a mental health facility.
The 16-year-old girl from Salem, N.H., was pelted with verbal barbs about her sexual orientation and appearance by the teens who had previously bullied her, according Salem police.
“There’s a fine line between good natured teenaged teasing and an attack,” Capt. Shawn Patten tells PEOPLE, adding that police and school officials are now more alert to bulling complaints after the Phoebe Prince case in Massachusetts. “I think it’s on everyone’s minds,”
INSIDE STORY: Mom Says Phoebe Prince Case Saved Daughter’s Life
Prince, a 15-year-old Irish immigrant, hanged herself in January after a half-dozen teens allegedly tormented the girl for being popular with the school’s male students.
According to Salem police, the abuse became too much for the young girl, who was hospitalized for five days beginning April 6 after sending her mother a text message saying she was “being picked on and couldn’t take it anymore.”
She never indicated she had any plans to harm herself. But her mother wasn’t taking chances in light of the Prince case.
Salem High School student Richard Lovette, 17, and four others were arrested. Lovette, who turned himself in to police last week, faces one count of criminal harassment, a misdemeanor, and was released after posting a $300 bond. He will be arraigned late next month.
The other four, whose names were withheld due to their ages, face juvenile court proceedings because they are minors and no one involved faces jail time. All of the students also faced school suspensions.