Details of a settlement reached on Friday, June 4, revealed that Cincinnati Public Schools and a nurse employed by the city will pay $3 million to the parents of an 8-year-old boy who took his own life in 2017 after repeated bullying.
Under the agreement scheduled to be approved by the school board on Monday, June 7, the district has also pledged to implement new measures to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.
According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Gabriel Taye, the third grader was subjected to repeated bullying at Carson Elementary school where he was a student, which drove him to take his own life on Jan. 26, 2017.
“In honor of Gabe, his family is using this settlement to protect current and future CPS students,” said the family attorney Al Gerhardstein. “We will make sure these reforms take root and end bullying throughout the CPS system.”
The settlement comes after a federal appeals court ruled late last year that the family’s wrongful death suit could move to trial, rejecting the district’s immunity claim and pointing out evidence showing school officials acted recklessly in the handling of Taye’s bullying.
According to the suit, aggressive behavior between students was “rampant” at Carson, and Taye had been subjected to bullying incidents since second grade.
Among other measures, CPS has pledged to identify bullying by tracking repeated offenders and common locations, and training nurses and staff members to intervene during and report bullying incidents.
Counsel for Taye’s family will meet with school officials twice a year for the next two years to monitor the reforms.
Students hit Taye on two occasions when he was in the second grade but his parents were never contacted, according to court documents. In October 2016, months before Taye’s death, after Taye defended himself when other students hit him he was told he would be punished if he did so again.
When Taye suffered a head injury on Halloween, former Principal Ruthenia Jackson and former Assistant Principal Jeffrey McKenzie said they didn’t know how the injury happened but denied his parents’ request to look at footage from the playground.
School surveillance footage from Jan. 24 shows that three days before his death Taye was pushed into a bathroom wall and knocked unconscious by another student, who then danced over Taye’s motionless body. Seven minutes passed before staff realized what was happening. McKenzie then simply stood over Taye at first. Taye’s parents were not notified promptly about the circumstances surrounding his injuries.
“The school nurse examined Taye but did not call 911. Instead, an hour after the incident, the school nurse called Taye’s mother and told her that Taye had ‘fainted,’ was ‘alert,’ that his ‘vitals [were] fine,’ and that he didn’t require any additional medical attention. … Jackson and McKenzie never told Reynolds that a student attacked her son in the bathroom, that the same student attacked other boys in the bathroom that day, or that her son was unconscious for more than seven minutes. None of the Defendants reported this incident, either internally or externally,” a judge wrote in a December decision about the suit going to trial.
Taye’s mother, Cornelia Reynolds, took her son to the hospital that night, where he was treated for a stomachache and sent home. He missed school on Jan. 25 but returned on Jan. 26.
According to court documents, two boys attacked Taye in the bathroom on Jan. 27, and tried to flush his water bottle down the toilet. Taye told a teacher but nothing was done about it. That day, Taye came home from school and hanged himself with a necktie from the top bunk of his bunk bed. His mother discovered him unresponsive, and when paramedics arrived they were unable to revive him.
According to Aaron Herzig, a partner at the Taft law firm that represented the school district, school officials aren’t responsible for Taye’s death, although reaching a resolution was in everyone’s best interest.
“The defendants strongly believe that neither CPS, its employees, nor the school nurse were responsible for the tragic death of Gabriel Taye,” Herzig said. “CPS embraces the goal of eliminating bullying within schools, as well as continuing to refine and improve reporting, management, and training processes related to incidents of bullying.”
A memorial for Taye will be placed his former school. An inscription on the bench that will include a picture of Tay will say , “I will ALWAYS stand up to bullies. I will ALWAYS be Kind and Respectful. I will ALWAYS be a Friend to others. I will ALWAYS Look out for those in need.”