A school district is facing legal action from the mother of a 12-year-old who took his own life after homophobic bullying.
Marcy Peterson has filed a lawsuit against the school district in Upper Deerfield, New Jersey, after the suicide of her son Tristan in 2017.
Tristan faced bullying and taunting from his classmates at both Elizabeth Moore School and Woodruff School before taking his own life.
The lawsuit alleges that the school district failed to address “an extended and persistent period of bullying, intimidation, and harassment related to Tristan’s sexual orientation and identity.”
School district sued for ‘failing to act’
According to NJ.com, the suit alleges the student was “specifically subjected to threats from another student… at the Woodruff School related to his sexual orientation, which was witnessed by a staff member” – but the school “failed to properly prevent the abusive behaviour.”
It adds: “The defendants had a duty to provide for the safety and security of students.”
The wrongful death suit, filed in New Jersey Superior Court, accuses the defendants of negligence and violating anti-discrimination laws.
The school district said it could not comment on the litigation.
New Jersey students ‘should feel safe’
Laurie McGuire of GLSEN New Jersey told the outlet there was a need for LGBT+ inclusive education.
“As a community, I think we can probably all agree that we want all of our children to be cared about and to be supported and to be safe. We need to work together to create safe schools for all students.
““The idea that there are students that are marginalised, that there are students that are bullied and picked on and harassed because they are perceived or seen as different from others and that don’t fit the norm that society has created for them, those students need a space that is supportive and affirming.”
GLSEN’s 2017 national school climate survey revealed that ninety percent of LGBT+ students in New Jersey had heard the word “gay” used in a negative way, while 79 percent reported hearing homophobic slurs.
Sixty percent of LGBT+ students in the state said they had faced verbal harassment, while 20 percent reported physical harassment.
If you are in the US and are having suicidal thoughts, suffering from anxiety or depression, or just want to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255. If you are in the UK, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123.