On Tuesday, an Ohio judge ruled that parents of an 8-year-old boy who died by suicide in 2017 can sue the school district for their son’s death.
Carson Elementary student Gabriel Taye was reportedly bullied in the three years leading up to his death. The third-grader’s parents sued Cincinnati Public Schools’ Board of Education, alleging school officials not only failed to intervene, but they never told the boy’s parents about the relentless bullying before his death, according to WXIX.
The parents’ lawsuit also lists Carson Elementary’s principal Ruthenia Jackson, ex-vice principal Jeffrey McKenzie, former school nurse Margaret McLaughlin, and former superintendent Mary Ronan as defendants.
The defendants attempted to have the wrongful death lawsuit dismissed, asserting they had immunity as their acts were within the scope of their official duties. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Bernice Bouie Donald rejected the motion, citing evidence that school officials “recklessly” handled the bullying that preceded Taye’s death, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The judge wrote, “As alleged, (the defendants’) behavior shows ‘conscious disregard of or indifference to a known or obvious risk of harm’ to Taye that was ‘unreasonable under the circumstances’ because they knew Taye was harassed and bullied at school and that a risk of bullying is suicide, and yet they utterly failed to take reasonable steps to protect Taye from that risk.”
Days before Taye’s death, the third-grader was reportedly attacked in a school bathroom and left unconscious. WXIX reported that surveillance footage showed the attack and its aftermath — which entailed Taye lying motionless on the floor for seven minutes before an adult intervenes.
The Enquirer reported that officials failed to call paramedics for Taye, in violation of school district protocol which mandates they must be called if a student is unconscious for more than a minute. Court documents alleged Taye suffered a head injury, but the school nurse told his parents he fainted and did not need to go to the hospital.
Taye was reportedly bullied again two days after the violent incident in the bathroom. He allegedly reported the incident to a teacher and nothing was done. That night, he took his life.
Police investigated Taye’s death but no charges were filed.
Donald’s ruling also cited allegations that school officials documented several bullying incidents involving Taye during the first half of his third-grade year. A lawyer representing Taye’s mother told WXIX that a civil rights lawsuit against Cincinnati Public Schools is still pending.
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[Featured image: Gabriel Taye/GoFundMe]