(CINCINNATI) — Family members of an 8-year-old Ohio boy who killed himself in January filed a federal lawsuit against the child’s school system and some of its administrators on Monday, accusing it of withholding critical details from the family about a bullying episode that they say led to his death.
Lawyers for the family of Gabriel Taye, who hanged himself with a necktie in his home on Jan. 26, said officials at the Carson Elementary School in Cincinnati “recklessly and deliberately withheld vital information” about a school bathroom attack that occurred two days before he killed himself.
The assault left Taye, a third-grader, unconscious for more than seven minutes, according to the family members, who have accused the school of covering up the episode.
School officials “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. Defendants informed his mother only that Gabe had fainted in the boys’ restroom and had recovered completely,” according to the lawsuit.
That concealment “prevented his mother from seeking appropriate treatment. Had she known of the extreme violence at Carson, she never would have continued to send him to school there,” the suit alleges.
In May, Cincinnati Public Schools released surveillance video recorded Jan. 24 outside a boys’ bathroom at Carson, which the family’s attorney, Jennifer Branch, says shows other students attacking Taye.
Mary Ronan, who earlier this month retired as Cincinnati Public Schools superintendent, said in May that the video shows only that Taye fainted and it doesn’t demonstrate any connection to his death, according to WCPO, ABC’s Cincinnati affiliate. She also denied the accusation that he was attacked, WCPO reported.
The family’s 41-page civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit names as defendants the Cincinnati Board of Education, Ronan, Carson School Principal Ruthenia Jackson and its Assistant Principal Jeffrey McKenzie.
According to WCPO, McKenzie has resigned from his post, and Jackson was assigned to another school in the fall.
Cincinnati Public Schools released a statement in response to the lawsuit on Monday, calling the death “tragic.” It added, “Now that litigation has been initiated, we offer no further comments regarding this matter at this time.”
“As we have stated previously pertaining to Gabriel’s passing, our hearts are broken by the loss of this child, and our thoughts are with his parents and extended family. He was an outstanding young man, and this is a great loss for his family and our school community,” the school said Monday.
Prosecutors investigated Taye’s death and closed the case without charges. The coroner ruled his death a suicide.
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