ALBUQUERQUE (CN) – A 12-year-old Navajo boy committed suicide after being bullied and harassed at his elementary school, his mother says. Geneva Yazzie claims school officials knew about the bullying and failed to take any steps to prevent it, or even tell her it was occurring.
The mother’s federal complaint contains few details of the bullying. It states: “E.J.J., at tender age of only twelve, hung himself following extensive, pervasive and ongoing bullying, teasing, taunting, intimidation and harassment occurring at the Tobe Turpen Elementary School.”
The school is in the Gallup-McKinley County School District, whose superintendent and school board are named as defendants, along with Turpen’s principal.
No comprehensive study of bullying-caused suicides exists in the United States, but more than 250 children from age 10 to 14 have committed suicide in the United States each year this decade. One British study suggests that as many as 50 percent of youth suicides are connected to bullying. Activists call the deaths “bullycide.”
Yazzie is not asking to represent her son’s estate; she filed on her own behalf.
The complaint states: “She is not the personal representative of the Estate of E. J. J., and does not ask this Court to appoint her to such capacity. She does not bring any action herein pursuant to any law of the State of New Mexico. This is not an action for wrongful death or common law tort but rather an action for deprivation of the Geneva Yazzie’s individual plaintiff’s constitutional rights, privileges and immunities under federal law alone.”
Yazzie says that by failing to intervene on her son’s behalf and failing to inform her of the harassment, school officials allowed her son’s foreseeable death to occur and deprived her of her constitutional right to association with her son.
Named as defendants are Principal Debra Moya, Superintendent Raymond R. Arsenault, the Gallup-McKinley County School District, and its board members Bruce Tempest, Joseph C. Menini, Chee Smith Jr., Anne Descheny and Genevieve Jackson.
Yazzie is represented by August Jonas Rane with Brusuelas & Rane.