Court Rules Parents of Student Who Took Own Life Can Sue Cincinnati Schools

The 8-year-old boy had been knocked unconscious by a classmate two days before he took his own life at his home.

Court Rules Parents of Student Who Took Own Life Can Sue Cincinnati Schools

CINCINNATI, Ohio — A federal appeals panel ruled the parents of an 8-year-old who took his own life after being bullied can move forward with their wrongful death lawsuit against Cincinnati Public Schools.

A lawsuit filed by Cornelia Reynolds and Benyam Tate, the parents of Gabriel Taye, alleges school officials at Carson Elementary School intentionally and negligently inflicted emotional distress on their son and failed to report child abuse, according to Yahoo News. Taye’s family claims a “cover-up” occurred “aimed at keeping any information regarding the rampant violence and aggressive behavior at Carson Elementary a secret.”

The family filed the civil rights action against CPS’s Board of Education in the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, reports Fox 19. Other defendants include former superintendent Mary Ronan, former Carson Elementary Principal Ruthenia Jackson, former vice principal Jeffrey McKenzie and former school nurse Margaret McLaughlin.

The defendants filed a dismissal motion claiming they are immune because their acts were within the scope of their official responsibilities. On Tuesday, the three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court Appeals ruled Taye’s parents had established “reckless behavior” that prevents school officials from receiving governmental immunity for their handling of the case.

“The truth about what happened to Gabe at Carson Elementary needs to be revealed and shared with all parents,” Reynolds’ attorney Jennifer Branch wrote in an email. “We have been able to gather testimony and evidence these last few months. Now we can proceed to trial.”

The lawsuit claims bullying against Taye began when he was in the first grade and escalated in the third grade. Students allegedly kicked and punched him on many occasions. On Jan. 24, 2017, the lawsuit says Taye was knocked unconscious after being thrown against a bathroom wall by a classmate.

The violent incident was caught on video surveillance and shows Taye laying on the floor motionless for nearly eight minutes before an assistant principal finds him.

The school nurse told Taye’s parents that he fainted.

Taye’s parents say he stayed home the following day. When he returned to school on Jan. 26, he was allegedly bullied again by students in the bathroom. That night, Taye took his own life in his bedroom.

The lawsuit also alleges administrators at Carson didn’t call 911 when Taye was knocked unconscious, failed to punish the bullies, didn’t tell teachers of the bullying, didn’t supervise the bathroom despite repeated bullying, and withheld other information.

Judge Bernice Bouie Donald said inaction by administrators ultimately  “prevented Taye’s parents from fully understanding Taye’s horrifying experience at Carson Elementary until it was too late.”

“We’re ready. We’re prepared, and we’ll keep fighting for Gabe,” Reynolds said. “Knowing what type of child he was, it motivates me to make sure that a family doesn’t go through what I’m going through right now.”

If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional information.

About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy’s mother, brother, sister-in-law, and a handful of cousins are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her husband, her 2 children and her dog.

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