Mother sues school district over 9-year-old daughter’s suicide, says bullying complaints ignored

Published 9:02 pm Thursday, January 16, 2020

The mother of a 9-year-old girl who took her own life filed suit Thursday blaming the fourth-grader’s death on educators she accused of ignoring the girl’s complaints about months of bullying by a boy.

Administrators and teachers at U.S. Jones Elementary School in the west Alabama town of Demopolis showed “deliberate and blatant indifference” to bullying McKenzie Adams endured before killing herself at her grandmother’s home in December 2018, the lawsuit claimed.

One white boy in particular taunted the black girl with “racial and gender based slurs,” the lawsuit said, but McKenzie wrote in her diary that another boy also harassed her.

The child, her mother and her grandmother all complained but school officials didn’t act to stop the bullying, the suit claimed. Instead, a teacher told McKenzie to “tell it to the wall because I do not want to hear it,” the lawsuit said. Rather than punishing the main bully, the teacher disciplined the girl for telling on him, it claimed.

The boy who bothered McKenzie the most told her to kill herself, instructed her how to do it and said she would be “better off dead” the day she took her life, the lawsuit said. The suit did not name the alleged bully.

The girl’s mother, Jasmine Adams, is listed as a plaintiff along with the child’s grandmother, Janice Adams. Filed in U.S. District Court in Mobile, the complaint accuses school officials of failing to follow state and federal law meant to guard against bullying.

“The ultimate consequence of this lack of interest and empathy was the tragic death of a 9-year-old,” Diandra Debrosse Zimmerman of Birmingham, the family’s lead attorney, said in a statement.

The suit seeks an unspecified amount of money.

A lawyer for the Demopolis city school system, which was named in the lawsuit along with superintendent Kyle Kallhoff, two elementary administrators and a teacher, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Demopolis is located in rural western Alabama about 110 miles (177 kilometers) southwest of Birmingham.