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Suicide Film Led Girl to Kill Herself, Mom Says

SANFORD, Fla. (CN) - A middle school student killed herself after being chosen to play a suicide victim in a video production class, her mother says in a lawsuit that claims the teacher glamorized suicide in the film project, of which she was not informed.

Elliette Piorkowski sued the Seminole County School Board and teacher Joseph Scott Fife, in Seminole County Court. She claims the ill-advised project led directly to the suicide of her 13-year-old daughter, Johanna Lowe.

Johanna killed herself on Nov. 23, 2010, "shortly after" Fife chose her for the starring role in a film about suicide, the mother says in the lawsuit.

Johanna was an 8th grader at Tuskawilla Middle School in Oviedo, Fla.

"Fife prepared his course materials to include instruction on the mental health service of suicide prevention," the mother says in the complaint. "Fife's plans included role-playing by his students in the production of a movie actually depicting one of his students committing a staged suicide. Without notice to the parents as required by statute, Fife intentionally engaged the decedent Johanna M. Lowe in the role of the suicide victim, and actually produced, edited and completed, with the help of his students, a video production of the decedent Johanna M. Lowe committing her own staged suicide."

This was during the fall semester of 2010, Piorkowski says.

She claims the defendants interfered with her parental and custodial rights by failing to inform her of the suicide project.

"Glamorization of suicide is a known phenomenon throughout the world's cultures, written about for centuries, known to produce an immediate increase in the occurrence of suicide following a publication of a suicide event, which has the effect of glamorizing suicide," the mother says in the complaint. That, in fact, is what happened to Johanna, Piorkowski claims.

She seeks damages for negligent and intentional interference with her parental relationship with Johanna, and the resultant pain and suffering.

She is represented by Tiffany Faddis with Faddis and Faddis, of Orlando.

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