CINCINNATI -- (WXIX) -- Gabriel Taye’s parents sued Cincinnati Public Schools for his wrongful death, accusing the system Monday of allowing Carson Elementary School to decay into a place so terrorized by bullies that the third grader died by suicide Jan. 26. The suicide came two days after Gabriel was assaulted and left unconscious on a restroom floor.
The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, also accuses CPS of covering up bullying at Carson – not just the repeated instances against Gabriel but also at least 14 other instances just in the past school year. The suit claims that CPS may have destroyed security-camera recordings to shield itself from legal action.
CPS, the lawsuit said, “with utter reckless wanton disregard for Gabe, permitted a treacherous school environment to become even more so by withholding these critical facts and covering up the risk to Gabe’s safety.”
Named in the suit are the school system; Mary Ronan, who just retired as CPS superintendent, and Carson leaders at the time of the bullying, Principal Ruthenia Jackson and Assistant Principal Jeffrey McKenzie. Jackson and McKenzie have left Carson Elementary.
CPS spokeswoman Dawn Grady said Sunday officials would not comment on the suit as the CPS legal team had not yet reviewed the complaint by Cornelia Reynolds and Benyam Taye of Cincinnati. But in May, Ronan publicly disputed the story that a bully had assaulted Gabriel, insisting the boy had merely fainted.
"Cincinnati Public Schools is reviewing with faculty and staff the procedures regarding adult supervision in the restrooms," the district said in a written statement after the incident was initially reported in May. "We are committed to student safety and ensuring that all CPS schools foster a positive, learning environment."
Cincinnati lawyer Jennifer Branch, representing Gabriel’s parents, said they gave an interview to WKRC Local 12 television, set to air Monday. Branch said that statement would be the parents’ only public comment.
Gabriel’s death came amid an outbreak of youth suicide in the region as measured by the Hamilton County coroner’s office. For close to 20 years, the average number of suicide deaths by people 18 and younger was five. In 2016, there were 13. So far in 2017, there have been 10 – the county’s first consecutive double-digit annual tally.