SAN DIEGO (CN) - An 11-year old boy killed himself because his school failed to protect him from bullying, racist slurs and attacks, his mother claims in Superior Court.
Veronica Mackall says her son Adonis Harris hanged himself from a door at their home in March 2011, and that his death could have been avoided had his school done something about bullying.
She sued the Chula Vista Elementary School District, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, the superintendent, principal, a counselor, two teachers and a staff member.
"Adonis was small for his age, had a disability in the form of a speech impediment, was African-American, was one of 10 children of a single mother, and was poor," his mother says in the complaint. "Adonis was bullied by other students in his classroom in front of his teacher and he was bullied by other students in the school hallways and grounds. He was bullied due to these personal characteristics, as well as other matters. The bullying that occurred in class and on the school grounds included but is not limited to Adonis being called a 'nigger' and 'broke poor' and assaults and physical attacks. The bullying at school was ongoing, was almost constant, and had been occurring for years before Adonis killed himself."
Adonis's mother says that the abuse "did not stop until he killed himself."
Chula Vista Elementary School District spokesman Anthony Millican told Courthouse News on Wednesday that its lawyers are reviewing the case.
"Although we grieve for the loss of life, we are certain that once the evidence is revealed these allegations will be determined to be unfounded," Millican said.
According to the 34-page complaint: "The school district and Thurgood Marshall staff knew of the constant bullying suffered by Adonis from the first time he arrived at Thurgood Marshall, both through direct observation and by reports. The school district and Thurgood Marshall staff members who knew of the bullying include, but are not limited to, the above named defendants, the Does 1 to 50, inclusive. Despite this, defendants took insufficient steps to supervise and protect Adonis."
Mackall seeks damages for negligence; negligent hiring, training, supervision, direction and retention; violation of Unruh Civil Rights Act; violation of the Ralph Act; violation of the Bane Act; harassment in an educational institution; and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Named as defendants along with the school and district are district Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, school Principal Christopher Gunnett, counselor Terry Voelker, teachers Patrick Neil and Carol Simons, and staff member Vicki Neil.
Mackall is represented by Maurizio Mangini with Mangini & Stewart of Oceanside, which did not respond to a request for comment.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.