The family of a 9-year-old Alabama girl who hung herself after incessant bullying by classmates is taking the school district to court over the failure by officials to address the racist, sexist harassment.
According to a federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama last Thursday, Demopolis City Schools officials acted indifferently towards McKenzie Adams‘ complaints about being bullied. Adams, a fourth-grader at U.S. Jones Elementary School, would take her life in December 2018.
Birmingham law firm Grant & Eisenhofer filed the suit on behalf of the girl’s mother, Jasmine Adams, and grandmother, Janice Adams, AL.com reported.
In the complaint, the family details racist slurs and insults aimed at young Mckenzie, including a note in which a classmate dubbed her a “bitch” and a “pu–y sucker.” The schoolgirl was also pelted with other disparaging names, including the N-word.
“She was bullied the entire school year, with words such as ‘kill yourself,’ ‘you think you’re white because you ride with that white boy,’ ‘you ugly,’ ‘Black b—h, just die,’ ” Adams’ aunt, Eddwina Harris, said after her niece’s suicide, saying much of the harassment stemmed from her friendship with a white classmate.
The alleged perpetrator of the bullying was a 9-year-old white boy, labeled in the suit as “Student 1.” He targeted McKenzie throughout the school year, repeatedly calling her a “n—-r” and an “ugly ass b—h.”
Relatives said they alerted school officials to the bullying on several occasions, but nothing was ever done to stop it.
Jasmine Adams requested a meeting with Mckenzie’s teacher, Gloria Mims, in August 2018 to discuss the white student’s behavior toward her daughter. She didn’t receive a call back, the lawsuit states.
Jasmine Adams reached out a second time after realizing Mckenzie, 9, was failing math — the subject Mims taught. Adams said she believed her child was struggling in class because of the emotional toll of the bullying. Still, her complaints about “Student 1’s” behavior went ignored.
It wasn’t until Mims obtained the offensive note written by the named bully that she contacted the girl’s mom for a meeting in October 2018, informing her that it was Mckenzie who’d be punished for reacting to the bullying.
In addition to Mims, the lawsuit also names U.S. Jones Elementary School, Demopolis City Schools, district superintendent Kyle Kalloff and principal Tori Infinger as defendants. The complaint comes nearly a year after police shuttered the investigation into the little girl’s death, citing lack of evidence that she was being harassed.
The lawsuit states otherwise, and alleges that “Student 1 told McKenzie … that she was better off dead and instructed her on the manner to take her own life.” The girl’s grandmother would find her hanging in her closet the afternoon of the day Mckenzie received those words.
“At this standpoint, the school is denying any report was made to them of bullying, [and] so far, we have not been able to prove that there was any report made to them,” Linden Police Department chief Robert Alston said at the time. “The only thing that’s concrete is she committed suicide.”
Aside from ignoring the bullying, the suit claims the district failed to comply with state law. The Student Harassment Prevention Act, passed in 2009, requires that schools put procedures in place to prevent peer-to-peer bullying — which DCS didn’t do until two months after Mckenzie Adams’ death, the Montgomery Advertiser notes.
The district is also accused of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination based on race and gender, and denying Mckenzie Adams equal protection under the law.
A spokesperson for Demopolis City Schools declined to comment on the suit, but said they “look forward to defending the claims and dispelling all of the allegations made within the complaint, and hope for equal coverage when this matter is resolved.”
The family’s lawsuit seeks a jury trial, as well as punitive and compensatory damages.