CINCINNATI – The superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools claims video from Carson School shows 8-year-old Gabriel Taye “fainted” and does not show a connection between bullying and the boy’s suicide.
Superintendent Mary Ronan also rejected the family attorneys’ claim that Taye was slammed into a restroom wall by a school bully.
“That is a falsehood. When you look at the video, we see no link between bullying and the suicide. If you look at the video — and we have frame by frame — it appears the young man fainted,” Ronan told WCPO Thursday.
Ronan said other boys in the restroom feel “traumatized” because they think they “caused his death.”
“Now, what I'm having to do is provide mental health services for the other three or four 8-year-olds in the bathroom with Gabriel because somehow now they think that they caused his death. So, now we've traumatized another three or four children who are at-risk,” Ronan said.
“So, this whole situation is so tragic — to have lost a child — and now children for the rest of their lives may need therapy because of what they've been unfairly accused of and these are children with no disciplinary record who just happened to be walking into the bathroom when he collapsed.”
WARNING: Viewers may find this video disturbing.
Taye hanged himself in his bedroom two days after the Jan. 24 incident at school, his mother and her attorneys have said. Police investigated and did not file charges.
After CPS released the school surveillance video last week, Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco said her office would reopen its investigation into Taye’s death.
“What we are going to try to do is determine what kind of physical findings may be attributed to injuries he sustained," she said.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said he might recommend criminal charges against teachers who overlooked Taye’s unconscious body lying on the floor for about 4 1/2 minutes. The video shows 18 children walked over or past the body before one brought an adult back.
Ronan, who is retiring as superintendent Aug. 1, was at a Solutions Conference Thursday at Christ Temple Church in Evanston. More than 100 CPS high school students discussed a range of issues including bullying, guns and teen suicide.
“There's been 13 suicides in the Greater Cincinnati area since September,” Ronan said. “All school administrators are very concerned and here's a community actually working toward providing solutions for our young people — having mental health professionals talk to them.
“This is in concert with our depression screenings that we are doing in our high schools,” she said. “We screened more than 2,000 youngsters this year. When they come into our health centers, we want to do a depression screening to try to identify the youngsters most at risk.
“All of this have been planned long before the unfortunate situation just because we've had several suicides this year and, like I said, 13 in the Greater Cincinnati area.
“It's something we're all trying to be pro-active — partners with community groups in the mental health field that come into our schools and work with our young people.”