The family of a teenager who attempted suicide due to racism and eventually died after suffering brain damage will be paid $1.25 mn by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
Jamari Dent, the 13-year-old special needs boy attempted to end his life in 2019 after being a victim of racist abuse from students and teachers at two public suits.
On 18 February 2019, Jamari’s younger sister found him after his attempt at self harm. He suffered permanent brain damage and was not able to walk or speak. He succumbed to his injuries in June this year.
The Chicago Board of Education met on 27 October and voted to approve the settlement amount to be paid to the boy’s mother Teirra Black.
Ms Black had filed a lawsuit against the schools alleging that her son had been bullied by staff members and students at the Evers Elementary and Carter Woodson Elementary schools. She added that the officials did nothing to protect her son even after she requested them.
The boy was allegedly called “retarded”, “stupid” and “dumb” by staff and students who also “joked that he would end up at a facility for students with mental disabilities.”
A teacher at the Evers Elementary school allegedly called him “dirty” and asked him if his “brillo hair was the reason he couldn’t read,” the mother claimed in the lawsuit.
The same teacher allegedly physically assaulted Jamari in 2018 following which he was transferred to the Woodson Elementary school.
However, the abuse followed Jamari to the new school where he was called “a dirty little n****r” and “stupid and dumb” by a white teacher.
Following the boy’s suicide bid, the school district in a statement claimed that “all allegations of bullying and student harm are taken seriously by the district, and we are fully committed to ensuring all students are supported and adults are held accountable”.
A CPS spokesperson said they were “saddened” about Jamari’s death but did not comment on the employment status of staff listed as defendants in the suit.
Two principals and five of the six teachers mentioned in the lawsuit are present employees according to the CPS’ March 2021 employment roster, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Ms Black, after concluding the boy’s funeral, sent a message to other mothers stating that “if you know that your child is being bullied, please report it.”
Jon Erickson, the family attorney said that the CPS “failed” the boy and “other special needs children like him on a criminal level and they will be held to account”.
“This is the culmination of three years of horrific abuse, neglect and incompetence that resulted in an 11-year-old child feeling he had no option to relieve himself of the pain and cruelty he suffered at the hands of his teachers other than to take his own life,” Mr Erickson was quoted by Atlanta Black Star as saying.
Earlier in 2020, the CPS paid $400,000 to settle two federal lawsuits accusing two teachers at Woodson and South Shore Fine Arts Academy of abusing special needs students.