The Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) has agreed to a $3 million settlement with the family of an eight-year-old boy who committed suicide in 2017 after he was bullied on multiple occasions while he was enrolled at the Carson Elementary School.
Besides the monetary settlement with the family of Gabriel Taye, the school district has also agreed to introduce reforms to deal with bullying in schools under its jurisdiction, Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Following Taye’s death, his family filed a federal lawsuit that same year alleging altercations among students at Carson School were “rampant.” The lawsuit also claimed officials at the school were aware of that issue but swept it under the rug and did not inform parents about it.
The suit also detailed a number of incidents where Taye was bullied by students at the school, saying the deceased third-grader was repeatedly punched, beaten and subjected to verbal abuse, The New York Times reported.
In one of the incidents, Taye – then a second-grader – was hit by students at the school. And though that happened on two different occasions, school officials not inform his parents, Cincinnati Enquirer reported. In another 2016 incident where he retaliated after students punched or hit him, school officials threatened disciplinary action against him if he did that again.
And after Taye sustained an injury to his head in another separate incident, the school’s former principal, Ruthenia Jackson, and former assistant principal Jeffrey McKenzie informed the juvenile’s mother they could not establish what occurred. They also declined to turn over surveillance footage to her.
In January 2017, Taye was beaten on three other occasions. And though two students involved in the incidents were suspended, McKenzie did not inform Taye’s mother about it. McKenzie reportedly told Taye’s mother the injuries her son had sustained as a result of the attack were due to “horseplay”, adding that the incident wasn’t also captured on surveillance footage.
That same month, a student was captured on video forcefully shoving Taye against a wall in the male restroom. The impact of the push rendered him unconscious for seven minutes, Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Surveillance footage of the incident shows students surrounding an unresponsive Taye. McKenzie also later went to the restroom but did not call 911 – which is supposed to be standard procedure – despite seeing Taye on the floor. The school nurse also informed Taye’s mother he fainted but did not disclose how that occurred.
When Taye returned to school two days after the incident, he was bullied again. He took his life later that day after he returned home from school. Despite the allegations, both the district and the school have denied any wrongdoing.
“The defendants strongly believe that neither CPS, its employees, nor the school nurse were responsible for the tragic death of Gabriel Taye,” Lawyer Aaron Herzig, attorney for the school district, said. “CPS embraces the goal of eliminating bullying within schools, as well as continuing to refine and improve reporting, management, and training processes related to incidents of bullying.”
The school district had also initially tried to have the federal lawsuit dismissed but the motion was turned down by an appeals court, Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The court wrote that what the Carson School nurse and officials did with regards to Taye’s welfare was “egregious and clearly reckless.” The court added they “ultimately prevented (Gabriel’s) parents from fully understanding (his) horrifying experience at Carson Elementary until it was too late.”