Getting Answers: technology’s impact in teen cyberbullying

A mother suing the city of Northampton and claimed her daughter took her own life in 2020 after being bullied by fellow students at Northampton High School.
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 5:29 PM EST
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NORTHAMPTON, MA. (WGGB/WSHM) - On Thursday, Western Mass News spoke with the attorney representing the family to a local mother and a local licensed mental health counselor to find out the impacts cyberbullying can have on mental health.

A mother suing the city of Northampton and claimed her daughter took her own life in 2020 after being bullied by fellow students at Northampton High School. We’re looking at the cyberbullying aspect of this case.

A mother, identified as “Jane Doe” in court documents obtained by Western Mass News, taking the city of Northampton to federal court, in a wrongful death suit, after her teenage daughter, identified as N.M. took her life in 2020.

According to the documents, her daughter faced bullying throughout her time at Northampton High School, both physical and online.

In court documents, the city defines cyberbullying as:

“Bullying through the use of technology or electronic devices such as telephones, cell phones, computers and the internet. It includes, but is not limited to, emails, instant messages, text messages, and cyber postings.”

The lawsuit cites examples of the city’s definition of cyberbullying in one of the accused students quote:

“...Would send messages through social media alerting other students when N.M. Would enter the school or leave classes. The students would then gather in N.M.S path of travel so that she could not enter or leave. The students would also physically gesture towards N.M. as if they were going to attack her.”

“In July of 2019, students from Northampton High School created a website named “Let’s Roast N.M.” In which they bullied N.M.”

“On September 9, 2019, N.M. was physically assaulted by two students. Who jumped N.M. and kicked her multiple times in the head. As a result of the incident, N.M. sustained a concussion. The fight was videotaped and disseminated across social media.”

Attorney Laura Mangini is representing the teen’s family and told us virtual bullying had just as much impact on the teen as physical bullying.

“So not only was she physically assaulted, but you have to see all the comments and re-watch the video of her being assaulted time and time again,” explained Attorney Mangini.

Attorney Mangini hopes addressing the situation would prevent the situation from happening again.

“The school needs to be held accountable for that, they need to know the people of Northampton and the surrounding towns are not going to stand by and let their kids be bullied,” expressed Attorney Mangini.

Chelsea Bryant, a licensed mental health counselor and Vice President of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services at the Gandara Center said this is why parents need to communicate with their teens.

“Ask them how their day was, know who their friends are, know what kind of apps are on,” said Bryant. “If they’re allowed to have apps the kind of phones that you’re buying to really be aware of what you’re putting into your kids, hands.”

Bryant added that cyberbullying has expanded in recent years with the pandemic, more access to computers, and more apps at our disposal,

The Northampton Mayor’s office told us they will not comment on an ongoing investigation. We’re told the Northampton interim superintendent is out of the office, on vacation this week.