CINCINNATI (CN) — Parents of a third-grader who hanged himself two days after being assaulted in a school restroom sued the Cincinnati Board of Education and its administrators Monday.
Eight-year-old Gabriel Taye hanged himself with a necktie on Jan. 26 as a result of persistent bullying at Carson Elementary School, his parents say in the federal lawsuit.
They say the school knew “student-on-student aggression was rampant, especially in the unsupervised bathrooms, but chose to cover it up rather than alert parents and the school community.”
Defendants include former School Superintendent Mary Ronan, and Carson Elementary Principal Ruthenia Jackson and Assistant Principal Jeffrey McKenzie.
Gabriel’s parents describe him as “an adorable, vibrant, and loving eight-year-old boy … [who] loved to sing and dance, play basketball and football, fish with his mother and play games with his father.”
Gabe entered a boys’ bathroom on Jan. 24 while another boy, P.A., was attacking several other students, according to the complaint, and the incident was captured on a security camera.
“Gabe extended his hand to P.A. as if to shake his hand. P.A. grabbed Gabe’s hand and aggressively yanked him toward the wall behind P.A. Gabe’s head struck something out of view and he collapsed on the floor. On the video, P.A. appears to celebrate his takedown of Gabe,” the complaint states.
“Gabe remained unconscious, lying motionless on the bathroom floor for more than seven minutes, while over a dozen students came in and out of the bathroom, pointing at him, mocking him, and kicking him.
“The callous indifference of the student witnesses not involved in the assault, who had knowledge of the video camera pointing directly at them, speaks to the environment of tolerance of bullying and aggression at Carson.”
Gabe’s parents say he regained consciousness shortly after a vice principal and school nurse arrived at the bathroom, but that no one called 911.
Gabe’s mother, Cornelia Reynolds, was called an hour later and told “he needed no further medical treatment,” but she says “no defendant ever told Ms. Reynolds that her son had been attacked in the bathroom, that the bathroom was unsupervised, that other boys were attacked in the bathroom by the same student, or that her son had lay unconscious on the bathroom floor for over seven minutes while being taunted and abused by other students,” according to the complaint.
She took her son to the hospital that night after he vomited twice, and kept him out of school the next day. When he returned to school on Jan. 26, two boys stole his water bottle and tried to flush it down a toilet.
“After Gabe came home from school around 5:30 p.m., he took one of the neckties he wore to school and used it to hang himself from the top bunk of his bunk bed. His mother had only left him alone for about fifteen minutes,” the complaint states.
“Gabe’s mother found him hanging from the bunk bed and unresponsive.
“Horrified and screaming, his mother cut her eight-year-old son down herself. As a nurse, she started CPR.”
She called 911 and paramedics were unable to revive him. He was pronounced dead at a hospital at 6:35 p.m.
His parents say the school failed to preserve surveillance recordings of bullying incidents involving Gabe, even after Cincinnati police began investigating his death. They say the video of the assault in the boys’ restroom two days before Gabriel’s death is the only recording that was not destroyed by the school district.
Gabe’s parents seek damages for wrongful death, Equal Protection violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, failure to report child abuse and loss of consortium.
His mom says that “despite the obvious trauma Gabe experienced, defendants recklessly and deliberately withheld vital information from his mother, including that he had been assaulted, lost consciousness for a considerable period of time, and was at risk of a serious head injury. … Had she known of the extreme violence at Carson, she would never have continued to send him to school there.”
They family is represented by Jennifer Branch with Gerhardstein and Branch in Cincinnati.
The lead plaintiff is the administrator of the estate, Karen Meyers.
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