Bullying eyed in death of 12-year-old Pennsylvania student

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 04, 2013 5:40 PM

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Investigators are looking into what role bullying might have played in the death of a Philadelphia area student just a day after his 12th birthday and weeks after a schoolyard fight.

Bailey O'Neill, who had been placed in a medically induced coma, died in Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on Sunday, the day after he turned 12.

The sixth grader had suffered seizures following a January 10 playground fight at Darby Township School in the Philadelphia suburbs. Local media said he was jumped and punched in the face several times, fracturing his nose.

"There's an investigation into the allegations of bullying," said Emily Harris, spokeswoman for the Delaware County district attorney's office.

Harris said there is surveillance video of the playground scuffle.

"There was a recess in the school yard, there was a fight," said Detective Sergeant John Lundell of the Darby Township Police Department.

Detectives investigating the case are awaiting an autopsy report from the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's office, Lundell said.

The medical examiner's spokesman said he was unsure when the autopsy would be released.

School Superintendent Stephen Butz said in a letter to the community posted on the website of the Southeast Delco School District that the district was working with investigators.

"Our condolences are with Bailey's family and friends during this very difficult time," the letter said.

After the fight, O'Neill was taken to a nearby hospital and then to one in Delaware, before being transferred to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he died.

A U.S. Justice Department survey published in 2011 said bullying is a widespread and often under-reported problem in schools, neighborhoods and elsewhere. Male bullying declines after age 15, the report said.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Steve Orlofsky)