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Mom Says Unchecked Bullying Led to Suicide

(CN) - The mother of a Florida teen who shot himself in a school bathroom claims in court that the Seminole County School Board failed to stop the bullying that agonized her son, even after it was told about it.

In a complaint filed in Seminole County circuit court, Shaniqua Hawkins says her son Lamar, a student at the Greenwood Lakes Middle School, was the target of a systematic and escalating pattern of psychological abuse from his fellow students.

Matt Morgan, who is representing Hawkins, said the bullying was a combination of physical and verbal assaults, and that the last incident was a fight that occurred just days before Lamar Hawkins III took his own life on Sept. 10, 2014.

"Lamar was a disabled child due to his condition, failure to thrive," said the attorney, who is with the Morgan & Morgan law firm of Orlando.

"As a result, he was a very small boy who was a prime target for these mean-spirited bullies," he said.

Shaniqua Hawkins says she and the boy's father made numerous reports to teachers and school administrators about the bullying, but the school district failed to take any corrective action.

She also says that on the day of her son's death, school officials failed to notice he had gone missing after his first period class.

Hawkins was found dead in a bathroom stall around 11 p.m. that night, but earlier in the day, the suit claims, a student found a spent gun shell, the complaint says.

Schools frequently lockdown schools or send students home during firearm-related events on campus, but in this case, that never happened, Hawkins says.

"His parents were never notified that he was missing from school," Morgan said in an email to Courthouse News.

"Witnesses have stated he was acting in an unusual manner that morning. Despite this fact, and the fact that he was missing, no search was conducted to the best of our knowledge," the attorney said.

Lamar used his father's gun, which according to news reports, was properly stored in a locked case. The Seminole County Sheriff's Office has not filed charges against the father.

The lawsuit is not the first in Central Florida involving a teen's death precipitated by bullying. Last year, Tricia Norman sued the Polk County School Board after her 12-year-old daughter, Rebecca Sedwick jumped from a tower to her death.

Sedwick had complained days earlier about constant bullying at the school and on social media.

"No child should have to go to school in fear," Morgan said. "No parent should have to watch their child leave home and know they are going into a hostile environment. There is no justice in the status quo of this current bullying epidemic."

A spokesperson for the Seminole County School District could not be reached for comment.

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