Ohio School District Agrees to Pay $3M to Family of 8-Year-old Boy Who Was Bullied and Died by Suicide
More than four years after losing their 8-year-old son to suicide, the family of Gabriel Taye has reached a $3 million settlement agreement with Cincinnati Public Schools amid a lawsuit that accused the school system of covering up the bullying that ultimately led to the child's death.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) announced an agreement with the Taye family on Friday, subject to the approval of the Board of Education, which is expected to come during a board meeting on Monday night.
The proposed settlement will build further upon CPS' current bullying system, and will add on additional terms, including a memorial at Carson School for Gabriel, who died by suicide on Jan. 26, 2017 "after being constantly bullied at school," according to his mother.
Other terms include "improved efforts to identify bullying by tracking repeat offenders, repeat victims and repeat locations where acts of bullying take place regardless of how the school or district becomes aware of the bullying; improving the ability of school nurses to report suspected incidents of bullying within the district's reporting system; intervening with those engaged in bullying by using restorative justice principles; adopting the state model policy for deterring bullying; and training and supervising all staff to follow the reforms."
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CPS and Taye family counsel will meet twice a year for the next two years to monitor the terms, CPS said in a news release.
"In honor of Gabe his family is using this settlement to protect current and future CPS students. We will make sure these reforms take root and end bullying throughout the CPS system," the family's lead counsel Al Gerhardstein said in a statement.
Aaron Herzig, a partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP and lead counsel for CPS, said in a statement that while the defendants do not believe that CPS, its employees or the school nurse were responsible for Gabriel's death, "resolution of this difficult matter is in the best interest of all parties."
"CPS does embrace the elimination of bullying within schools, as well as continuing to refine and improve reporting, management, and training processes related to incidents of bullying," Herzig said.
Gabriel's family filed a federal lawsuit in 2017 alleging that officials at Carson School, where Gabriel was in third grade, knew bullying was "rampant," but covered it up and did not report it to parents, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The lawsuit reportedly claimed that Gabriel suffered physical abuse at the hands of classmates multiple times, and was pushed into a wall by a student and knocked unconscious two days before his death — instances of bullying from which his parents were allegedly kept in the dark.
Among his injuries were a head wound suffered on Halloween, though former principal Ruthenia Jackson and former assistant principal Jeffrey McKenzie allegedly told Gabriel's mother that they could not determine how it happened — and would not look at playground video footage, according to the Enquirer.
During the month he died, Gabriel was attacked and injured three separate times — and McKenzie allegedly never told the child's mother, Cornelia Reynolds, that two students were suspended for attacking her son.
The suit also reportedly claimed that two days before his death, Gabriel was knocked unconscious for seven minutes after he was pushed into a bathroom wall, and school officials did not call 911, despite the fact that CPS policy required a call.
The Enquirer reported that school nurse Margaret McLaughlin allegedly told Reynolds that her son fainted, and he was later hospitalized after complaining of stomach pain. Gabriel stayed home from school on Jan. 25, but returned the next day, and died by suicide after school on Jan. 26 after two students bullied him in a bathroom and stole his water bottle.
In January, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the district's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, with the court saying that the alleged actions of the Carson School nurse and administrators were "egregious and clearly reckless," according to the Enquirer.
Gabriel's parents have since launched the Gabriel Taye Foundation as a way of advocating and raising awareness "for every child or teen who has or is suffering as a result of bullying."
"These parents have fought hard for the four years since Gabe's death," co-counsel Carla Loon Leader and Michele Young said in a statement. "We are awed by their strength and commend them for their commitment to pursuing such a comprehensive settlement."
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.