15-year-old Latin school student died by suicide after relentless bullying, lawsuit claims, as school turned a blind eye – Chicago Tribune

A 15-year-old Latin School student in Chicago was “regularly tormented” by students at the prestigious school until he died by suicide in January, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

The lawsuit, filed by the boy’s parents, Robert and Rosellene Bronstein, accuses school administrators of ‘deliberate failure’ to do anything about the bullying, even though they have received numerous complaints from the boy and his family. The complaint, filed in Cook County, names the school, a number of employees and the parents of the alleged bullies.

Latin, a top school that charges more than $40,000 a year in tuition, includes former first lady Nancy Reagan, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II and others well-known public figures as alums.

In a statement, the school called the allegations unsubstantiated. He said he “deeply grieves” the death of one of his students, but plans to “defend himself vigorously”.

“Allegations of wrongdoing by school officials are inaccurate and misplaced,” the statement said. “The faculty and staff at the school are compassionate people who put the interests of the students first, as they did in this case.”

The boy, identified as NB in ​​the suit, was transferred to Latin from Francis Parker School due to in-person learning of Latin during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the complaint.

A student at the school, whose parents are named in the lawsuit, spread a false rumor that the boy was not vaccinated, according to the lawsuit. Despite being vaccinated, the boy was harassed about his perceived vaccination status, the suit states. The Bronsteins contacted the student’s family about the alleged harassment, according to the lawsuit.

The bullying escalated from there, according to the lawsuit. A teacher in front of a class told him he was “going nowhere in life,” according to the lawsuit, and was cyberbullied in a group text messaging thread by members of the basketball team. junior varsity ball and on the social media app Snapchat. A Snapchat message circulating around the school said of the boy: “You are a terrible person.”

On December 13, a student sent a Snapchat message to the boy encouraging him to kill himself, according to the lawsuit.

NB later met with a Latina administrator to report the bullying, the suit says, but the administrator did not discipline any of the students involved in the cyberbullying.

Rosellene Bronstein had also been in communication with a school counselor about the bullying, according to the lawsuit. At one point, she told the counselor that she thought her son might be hurt and asked for a referral for a psychiatrist.

Rosellene Bronstein informed school employees of the bullying on several occasions, but the school dismissed her concerns as “family issues,” the lawsuit says. In November and October alone, she contacted Latin more than 30 times.

Despite anti-bullying policies and a stated policy of “zero tolerance” for hate speech, school administrators turned a blind eye to the Bronstein family’s “increasingly desperate” pleas for help, according to the complaint.

The boy also reported the bullying to a school dean about “months of abuse” but was ignored, according to the complaint.

He died on January 13.

The lawsuit argues that Latin violated a state law that requires all schools in Illinois to investigate bullying and notify parents of students involved. He also accuses the school of allowing a culture of bullying, as shown by an Instagram account that highlights alleged instances of bullying, harassment and hate speech. The lawsuit says NB’s sister was also bullied at Latin.

After NB’s death, school principal Randall Dunn and certain board members “conspired to conceal all of the above information from law enforcement authorities, the entire Latin Council, the other Latin voters and to the NB family,” the lawsuit alleges.

The suit demands a $100,000,000 reward on several counts of the suit. In a press release, the Bronsteins said they plan to share the lawsuit money with anti-bullying organizations.

They said they asked the school to engage in an outside investigation, but Latin refused.

“My son was so lonely,” Rosellene Bronstein said in the statement. “Not only did the trustees who were supposed to protect him ignore his cries for help, but they had the selfish nerve to try to protect their own reputations after his death rather than just have the decency to be honest with him. his grieving family. This is a legal and moral failure that has caused us untold pain and agony.

For 24/7 help, call the free and confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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Martha K. Merrill