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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Parents Blame Bullying for Daughter’s Suicide

LAS VEGAS (CN) - Middle-schooler Hailee Joy Lamberth overcame epilepsy to become a straight-A student, star athlete and gifted artist, but school bullies caused her to kill herself, her family claims in court.

Hailee's parents sued the Clark County School District, its top administrators, a dean, a counselor and a teacher on Wednesday in Clark County Court.

Hailee was 12 when she entered seventh grade at Thurman White Middle School in August 2013, and enjoyed a "rich and full life," her father, Jason Lamberth, said in the lawsuit.

It took just 4 months of torment from school bullies, and inaction from school officials, for his daughter to kill herself, on Dec. 12, her dad says.

"Hailee enjoyed academics, earning straight A's and honor awards. She had many friends and a close and supportive family," her parents say. "Artistic by nature, Hailee delighted in painting, drawing and making crafts. She preferred hand-making birthday cards instead of buying them."

Hailee was the starting goalie on her youth soccer league team, the Quails, and enjoyed hiking, camping and fishing. She recently had been diagnosed with epilepsy and "would endure petit mal and grand mal seizures at times, with grace and determination," her parents say.

They say she was kind to her classmates, and helped another student pick up books that a bully had slapped to the floor, but "Hailee's willingness to intervene, however, tragically was not mirrored by school district officials."

From August until her death, the Lamberths say, "severe and abusive acts of bullying confronted Hailee on both a discrete occasions and a pervasive basis at Thurman White Middle School."

"A voice mail recorded on Hailee's phone on Sept. 27, 2013, mocked Hailee's seizures and appeared to say: 'Where are you Hailee? I hope you died,'" her parents say.

After her death, a school investigation showed that bully was a student identified as "C.H.," whom school officials twice had suspended for bullying, according to the lawsuit.

The Lamberths say: "Hailee and her peers witnessed acts of bullying by C.H. toward students on a regular basis. Such acts included threats to 'kill you.'"

The bully also "left letters in Hailee's locker, instructing her to 'Drink Bleach and Die' and posing the question 'Why don't you die?'" her parents say.

The school's investigation also revealed that another student, identified as "J.J.," bullied Hailee in their physical education class nearly every day for two months, which the teacher witnessed but ignored. A classmate told school investigators that said J.J. "would call Hailee a fat ass, stupid bitch and a slut. ... No one was doing anything about the bullying, so I [C.G.] stood up for my best friend and reported the bullying on the website link."

Nevada law requires teachers who witness who are made aware of bullying to report it to school officials, but the P.E. teacher did not, the Lamberths say.

In a March email to Hailee's father, defendant middle school principal Andrea Katona told him that when a student reports bullying on the school's anonymous website, an automated email is sent to school officials notifying them of the report. The school's Progressive Discipline Plan requires school officials to investigate any reported bullying and obtain written statements from witnesses, but the Lamberths say school officials did not bother to investigate the bullying Hailee endured.

Nevada law requires school officials to investigate within one day any bullying they witness or that is reported to them, and notify the parents of bullied students, but the Lamberths say that never happened, which deprived them of the opportunity to help Hailee and seek counseling or interventional services.

Three weeks after the anonymous report of Hailee being bullied, the Lamberths say - two days after her 13th birthday - she wrote a suicide note saying: "I only hope that you tell my school that I killed myself so maybe next time people like [C.H.] wants to call someone pimple face or emo ass bitch he won't." (Brackets in complaint.)

Hailee's father and 6-year-old brother found her body in the family's den. Las Vegas Metro Police gave Mr. Lamberth the suicide note two weeks later.

Lamberth says he asked defendant school dean Ron Kamman for a copy of Hailee's disciplinary and other files, but Kamman told him there was no disciplinary file due to Hailee being an "exemplary" student.

Lamberth says he returned to the school later that day, and the principal gave him the disciplinary file which Kamman had denied existed, which revealed school officials were aware of the bullying report.

Lamberth says it only was then that he learned of the online report of the bullying.

Lamberth says he met with defendant Superintendent Pat Skorkowsy, and later learned that Katona wrote a statement that contained a "false chronology" and "made egregiously false and malicious statements defaming Jason and Jennifer Lamberth, outrageously and falsely claiming that Jason Lamberth abused Hailee." The Lamberths say the libelous document written by Katona was sent to a "third-party parent."

The Lamberths seek punitive damages for wrongful death, negligence, infliction of emotional distress, civil rights violations, defamation, unreasonable publicity, failure to protect privacy and false light invasion of privacy.

The Lamberths are represented by Allen Lichtenstein and Staci Pratt.

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