The parents of an 8-year-old boy who killed himself in 2017 are in a legal battle against school administrators, who defended themselves in court Wednesday and said they're not liable for the student's death.
According to The Washington Post, the parents filed the lawsuit two years ago, saying Carson Elementary School in Cincinnati covered up the violence and bullying which led to their son's death.
Surveillance video shows 8-year-old Gabriel Taye laying motionless on the school's bathroom floor after he was allegedly knocked unconscious by another student two days before he died. School administrators didn't call 911 when they found the boy in the bathroom, the lawsuit states. The parents also said the school waited more than an hour to call the boy's mother, then lied by telling her that he fainted, Courthouse News Service reported.
Gabriel reportedly returned to school a day later, and he was bullied again in the bathroom. The 8-year-old hung himself in his bedroom later that day, according to Courthouse News Service.
In their lawsuit against the Cincinnati Board of Education and several school officials, Cornelia Reynolds and Benyam Taye said their son "had been suffering from the aggressive, violent, and bullying behavior that was widespread and permitted by Cincinnati Public Schools and Defendants."
The parents said Gabriel collapsed on the bathroom floor and lost consciousness almost immediately after he was attacked, "spending more than seven minutes unconscious on the floor while students repeatedly taunted and kicked him."
"It was obvious that Gabe had suffered a trauma and likely an assault. He was at obvious risk of injury," the lawsuit states. "Despite the obvious trauma Gabe experienced, Defendants recklessly and deliberately withheld vital information from his mother, including that he had been assaulted, lost consciousness for a considerable period of time, and was at risk of a serious head injury."
Aaron Herzig, an attorney for the school’s administrators, said school officials should be immune from liability in the boy's death. According to Courthouse News Service, Herzig said the court would be “opening up whole new vistas of liability” for school officials by denying immunity for his clients.
The lawsuit states that the boy was a victim of "aggressive behavior" in at least six incidents during the third grade, but the school only notified his mother about three.
"While CPS Defendants did notify his mother of three of these incidents, they withheld critical information that was needed in order for his mother to protect him from further harm," the lawsuit states. "They also know the history of bullying, violence, and aggression Gabe faced at Carson since the first grade and that the violence against him was increasing to such an extent it was impacting his ability to learn."
School officials said they didn't ignore a pattern of bullying and they didn't do anything to increase the risk of danger to the boy, The Washington Post reported.
The lawsuit describes Gabriel as a boy who loved to fish with his mother, play games with his father, sing and dance and play sports.
“Until she gave birth to Gabe, Cornelia Reynolds had no idea how much love she had to give,” the lawsuit states. “Cornelia misses her only child every day. Her life is empty without her only child, her best friend.”
The judges will now decide whether to affirm a trial court’s refusal to dismiss the wrongful death lawsuit.
According to The Washington Post, suicide among people from 10-24 years old increased by 56% from 2007-2017. About 33 kids from ages 5 to 11 die by suicide every year, making it the third-leading cause of death for that age group, the American Psychological Association reported in 2016.
Suicides for Black children particularly have increased by alarming rates as Blavity previously reported.
From 2001 to 2017, suicide rates for Black girls between 13 and 19 years old have doubled. For Black boys in the same age group over the same period, these rates have increased by 60% as an NBC News report relayed.