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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Girl’s Hanging Blamed on Bullying & School Neglect

CHICAGO (CN) - A school's failure to stop bullying led a 12-year-old Chicago girl to hang herself, the girl's mother claims in court.

McKenzie Phlipot was allegedly severely bullied during her time at the Helen C. Peirce School of International Studies in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago. Phlipot's mother, Beth Martin, says she repeatedly told the school about the bullying to no avail.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday by Corboy & Demetrio, claims that the Chicago Public Schools system did not respond properly, but instead allowed McKenzie to sustain the physical and emotional injuries that led to her suicide.

Though the filing itself does not get into specific anecdotes, lead attorney Robert Bingle in an interview mentioned "some physical acts" that his team knows about.

"Kids running across a playground at full speed and barreling into her," Bingle said. "Chasing her away from the school and pinning her face against a fence. Those were some of the incidents that went on with this poor little girl."

Bingle said the discovery process will reveal details.

The 13-page complaint quotes the anti-bullying policy in Chicago Public Schools Code of Conduct as requiring all school staff who learn of bullying to "intervene immediately" and report the incident "as soon as practicable, but within 24 hours."

Martin said her daughter's "continued bullying ... should have never been allowed."

"McKenzie and I were relying on the administration to help us, but they ignored and dismissed the severity of the problem," Martin said in a prepared statement. "They did not have McKenzie's back, she felt like she had nowhere to turn."

She continued: "I want McKenzie to have a voice, the one that went unheard while she was alive. I live with the pain of McKenzie's loss every day and want to help make sure no other child will have to endure the physical and emotional torment she experienced at school."

Bingle pointed out the case's broader significance. "Bullying in the school system has come into the consciousness of the American public, and that's why they made this policy," the managing partner said. "Several of these activities were once considered part of the ritual of growing up, but never should have been."

The failure by the school to implement its own policies is also an issue for Bingle.

"By their own code, the CPS has identified steps that need to be taken, such as setting up meetings with the parties involved and speaking with both sets of parents. These steps are mandated and were not done in regards to McKenzie," Bingle said.In a statement, the attorney noted: "The school was aware of this bullying and did not follow the steps mandated by the Chicago Public Schools code to stop this behavior."

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