The family of an Italian teen who killed himself at an elite New York boarding school has filed a lawsuit alleging that officials forced the 17-year-old into “solitary confinement” after he was expelled for cheating, NBC News reports.
In February, Claudio Mandia hanged himself at EF Academy, an international boarding school in Thornwood, New York, where tuition costs more than $66,000 per year.
Mandia had recently been expelled from the school because he allegedly cheated on a math assignment.
School authorities required him to stay alone in the room, according to the suit, which was filed by his father and another representative of the teen’s estate in the Westchester County Supreme Court.
The complaint alleges that school staff contributed to the suicide because they forced him to remain alone while he was in an emotionally vulnerable state and knew that he had been dealing with other personal concerns that had affected his academic work.
“It was painfully foreseeable that forcing [Claudio] into solitary confinement, malnourishing him, and inadequately supervising him after delivering the life-altering news that he would be expelled – all while he was enduring other hardships that EF Academy knew about and was treating him for – could result in his tragic death,” the complaint reads, according to the New York Post.
The lawsuit lists numerous allegations against the school, including wrongful death, false imprisonment, negligence and emotional distress.
In a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson for the school disputed the assertion that Mandia has been “placed in solitary confinement” and further alleged that the suit contained “multiple inaccurate statements.”
“The narrative that is shared in the legal filing is not accurate or based on fact,” the statement said, according to NBC News. “We are confident that the legal process will allow us to provide and prove a fact-based legal case recounting what actually transpired.”
Mandia enrolled in the school in the fall of 2020. He did well in his first year, but the following year, he had to temporarily stay in Italy when several family members got COVID-19.
“This caused [Claudio] to fall behind in his academic work, and when [Claudio] did return to campus after being quarantined, he was under a lot of pressure to try and catch up,” the lawsuit states, according to the Post.
“Then, less than two weeks after his delayed return to campus, [Claudio] suffered the unexpected loss of a close family member, which upset him terribly and caused him to seek counseling from EF Academy’s in-house social worker Chelsea Lovece,” the suit reads further, the Post reports.
In the course of Mandia’s efforts seeking counseling, school authorities expelled him for alleged plagiarism and forced him into what the complaint says was solitary confinement on February 14 until his parents could come to campus to get him.
Mandia allegedly had another student complete a math assignment for him while he was under substantial stress from the family member’s death and mounting schoolwork that had accumulated because he arrived back late from winter break, when family members had gotten COVID-19, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News reports.
“[Claudio] screamed and cried for help while held in solitary confinement. EF Academy and the individual Defendants callously ignored him,” the suit alleges, according to the Post.
The parents repeatedly asked the school to rescind the punishment so their son was not insolation, but to no avail, according to the Rockland/Westchester Journal News.
Just one day before he was to be picked up, staffers allegedly saw marks around his neck indicative of an earlier suicide attempt but did nothing to intervene, the lawsuit alleges.
Mandia’s sister, who was also enrolled at the school, begged the staff to check on her older brother. He didn’t answer an initial knock, and when staff checked on him again, he was found deceased.
“EF Academy’s implementation of its solitary confinement protocol, combined with its grossly negligent – and indeed blatantly abusive – handling of [Claudio] known risk factors, was truly outrageous and warrants the imposition of punitive damages to ensure such conduct does not ever happen again,” the lawsuit reads, according to the Post.
Another Italian student who had been expelled from the school had previously attempted suicide in November 2020, according to the Post. Mandia did not have any connection with that incident.
If you or someone you know is considering self-harm or dealing with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.
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[Featured image: Claudio Mango/Instagram]