Phoebe Prince was a recently arrived Irish immigrant, 15 and emotionally fragile, when high school bullying over two boys she dated apparently drove her to hang herself with a scarf in her Massachusetts home.
Tyler Clementi was an 18-year-old violinist with a bright future. He jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River after his roommate at Rutgers University allegedly used a webcam to spy on his same-sex liaison.
They never met each other, but together their ordeals put a spotlight on the harm caused by bullying and helped strengthen laws to crack down on what had until then been treated as a rite of adolescence.
"This prosecution has also shattered the myths that bullying is just part of growing up, that it affects only a small number of kids, and that kids can work it out themselves," said David Sullivan, a prosecutor in the Prince case. "The era of turning a blind eye to bullying and harassment is over."
Last week, five teenagers charged in the Prince case admitted in court that they participated in her bullying. In plea deals with prosecutors, they received probation and were ordered to perform community service. If they successfully complete their probation, the charges will be dropped. A statutory rape charge against a sixth teenager was dropped.