ABlack New Jersey student’s stories of terror about racist bullies prompted a lawsuit that may push a school to address the nationwide crisis of teen depression and suicide.
Michael Lombardo and Jane Mason, parents of an eighth grader at St. Joseph Grade School in Toms River, said their son suffered through merciless harassment that hit a dangerously low point in December 2016. The male student, only identified by his initials, endured so much pain from the bullies the he suggested taking his own life in a social media group chat, the parents said in a civil complaint filed in federal court Tuesday (June 19). He was then told by 11 bullying classmates to kill himself.
The bullies, who also referred to the boy using the N-word and as a “monkey” would go as far as making cutting motions with their wrists, NJ.com reported.
Another horrifying incident revealed that the boy found a note in his desk saying the “KKK is coming 4 u” with a drawing of a Klansman wearing a white hooded robe, the suit said.
The student, who didn’t attempt suicide, moved schools, his parents said. Teachers and administrators who should have stepped up to help the student refused to properly punish the bullies or prevent any future incidents, the parents also said in their filing. A guidance counselor even blamed the student for the bullying, and another teacher isolated the child by telling other students to have no contact with him. The parents are now suing the teacher, guidance counselor, two administrators, St. Joseph’s Parish and its head pastor Rev. G. Scott Shaffer, as well as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Trenton.
What the student faced at the New Jersey school is eerily similar to other situations faced by students of color who are targeted by racist bullies. Many suffer from psychological and racial abuse, which can reinforce feelings of sadness. More students across the nation reported depressing feelings last year, according a recently released Centers For Disease Control and Prevention teen behavior survey cited by NBC News.
When it came to Black students, 29.2 percent reported persistent feeling of sadness, the survey found. Students also reported that bullying is very common, and nine percent of male students have considered suicide, compared to 17.1 percent for girls in 2017. The statistics are alarming, and schools and governing bodies must do more to address this emergency.