CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Public Schools officials have filed an appeal weeks after a judge denied their request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the parents of an 8-year-old boy who died by suicide.
The family of that boy, Gabriel Taye, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the district, alleging school officials covered up an attack against him and "rampant" bullying in Carson Elementary School. Taye died by suicide in January 2017.
The case presents a question of school liability in cases of peer-to-peer harassment, according to the appeal. If the lawsuit is allowed to proceed, the school district's attorneys argued, it would "dramatically increase school liability for student conduct that may not be in their control."
The school personnel named in the lawsuit have statutory immunity, according to their attorneys. Ohio law does protect public officials from liability for actions made in the course of their duties as long as they were not malicious or reckless.
The schools are also asking the judges to stop proceedings in the family's lawsuit until after dealing with the new appeal, saying that they believe they have a good chance of winning the appeal and they face "irreparable harm" if the lawsuit continues in the meantime. Also, taxpayers will foot the bill and it would be best to hold off on additional expenses that may be unnecessary, they district's attorneys wrote.
In a written statement, Jennifer Branch, the lead attorney representing Gabriel's family, said, "Gabe’s family has asked for justice, not just for Gabe, but for all children who may be bullied at CPS schools. Justice delayed is justice denied. Gabe deserves better and so do the children of Cincinnati."
A school surveillance video sits at the heart of the case. It shows Gabriel on the ground unconscious for seven minutes before a school nurse came to help. Branch said it also shows other students assaulting Gabriel, but school officials have disagreed.