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Father Blames Son’s Suicide on Bullying

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (CN) - After a high school ignored a student's complaints of bullying, and its football coach told him to "toughen up," the school showed a movie featuring pictures of teenagers who had committed suicide - and the boy killed himself the next day, his father claims in court.

Bradley Lewis, on behalf of his deceased son Jordan, sued the Carterville Community Unit School District No. 5, 3Screens.com and Erik Rebstock, on Oct. 17 in Federal Court.

Rebstock lived with Jordan and his mother and Lewis says Jordan used Rebstock's negligently stored gun to shoot himself in the chest.

Lewis claims his son was called "gay, homo, queer, and faggot" on a regular basis. He says his son had his head slammed into lockers by members of the Carterville football team and that the harassment intensified after Jordan quit the football team.

"At times, the football coach, Dennis Drust, even instigated the bullying against Jordan," the complaint states. "The failure to act and limit abuse was knowing and intentional. Upon information and belief, the football coach, after being informed of acts of bullying, told Jordan that he needed to, 'toughen up.'"

Drust is not a party to the lawsuit.

The day before Jordan killed himself, his school showed a movie to students called "Piercing the Darkness" by 3Screens. The movie highlighted issues such as drug abuse, bullying and disabilities encountered by students, the lawsuit states. It ended with pictures of young students who had committed suicide due to bullying, which brought an emotional response from many students who had experienced bullying themselves, according to the complaint.

Lewis claims Carterville did not tell parents the movie would be shown, nor give parents the chance to opt out of having their children watch it.

"Upon information and belief, after the video, Jordan expressed his suicidal thoughts and one member of the football team said to him, 'You don't have the balls to kill yourself,'" the complaint states.

"The next day, October 17, 2013, Jordan walked up to defendant Rebstock's unlocked gun case located in their home. Jordan pulled out a negligently stored shotgun and fatally shot himself in the chest.

"A letter was found in Jordan's home, where the suicide occurred, and it stated, 'Bullying has caused me to do this those of you know who you are.'"

Lewis seeks punitive damages for Title IX violations by Carterville and negligence against 3Screens and Rebstock. He is represented by D. Todd Mathews of Gori Julian & Associates in Edwardsville, Ill.

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