CINCINNATI -- A judge on Monday denied Cincinnati Public Schools’ request to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the parents of an 8-year-old boy who died by suicide last January.
The family of that boy, Gabriel Taye, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the district in August, alleging school officials covered up an attack against him and "rampant" bullying in Carson Elementary School.
In their response to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court last October, CPS called Gabriel's death "tragic" but said the district was in no way responsible. They asked the judge to dismiss the case.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black denied the district’s request based on a number of claims, including the allegation that CPS officials made misrepresentations of a bullying incident and concealed information, court documents state.
Taye’s family’s attorneys said Black’s decision to allow the case to proceed indicates that the court recognizes suicide is a risk of bullying.
"What the district court said is that the (school) district must be held responsible," attorney Jennifer Branch said. "The claims against the school district should not be dismissed."
Branch represents Taye's mother. She said the district's motion to dismiss only created a "one year delay."
"Now we get to litigate the case. We get to prove the allegations that we made in the case," Branch said.
"Cincinnati Public Schools is reviewing the decision, and we are contemplating our options for next steps,” Cincinnati Public Schools spokeswoman Lauren Worley said.
At the heart of the case is what's captured on a school surveillance video, taken two days before Taye took his own life. Branch said the video shows other students assaulting Taye in the entrance to a bathroom at Carson Elementary. Cincinnati Public Schools said the video does not show that's what happened.
The video shows Taye on the ground unconscious for seven minutes before a school nurse came to help. That nurse is now named in the lawsuit.
"Cincinnati Public Schools has a policy that if a student is out, unconscious for more than one minute, they must call 911 and the nurse did not do that here," Branch claims.
Black dismissed two counts in the suit: one was failure to report child abuse. The other involved the plaintiffs alleging CPS defendants committed a due process violation because a "special relationship" existed between Taye and the CPS defendants, according to court documents.
Attorneys for Taye’s family said they hope for a trial by the end of the school year.
The case of Emilie Olsen
A second federal judge, Judge Michael Barrett, ruled that a similar case should move forward as well. The family of 13-year-old Emilie Olsen filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Fairfield City School District in 2015 after she took her own life.
Olsen's family claims the school district knew other students were bullying the teen, and did nothing about it.
"We don’t comment on pending litigation," a spokesperson for the Fairfield City School District said.
Branch, who has no connection to the Olsen case, said the courts are putting school districts on notice.
"Both courts ruled that this is a foreseeable consequence of bullying -- that a child will commit suicide, and for that reason all the school districts need to be paying much more attention to bullying and trying to solve the problem," Branch said.