Gabriel Taye's family files wrongful death lawsuit against Cincinnati Public School officials
Posted August 7
Cincinnati, OH — The family of the Carson Elementary School third-grader who hanged himself in January amid accusations of bullying filed a federal lawsuit against school officials Monday.
The suit claims 8-year-old Gabriel Taye's suicide resulted from a January attack in the boy's restroom that was caught by a school surveillance camera and that school officials covered up the attack and "rampant" bullying in the school.
The suit says school officials "deliberately withheld vital information from his mother, including that he had been assaulted, lost consciousness for a considerable period of time, and was at risk of a serious head injury. Defendants informed his mother only that Gabe had fainted in the boy's restroom and had recovered completely."
In addition, the suit claims "defendant school officials not only knew that student-on-student aggression was rampant, especially in the unsupervised bathrooms, but chose to cover it up rather than alert parents and the school community so the violence could be investigated and resolved."
The suit names as defendants the Cincinnati Board of Education, since retired Superintendent Mary Ronan, Carson School Principal Ruthenia Jackson and Assistant Principal Jeffrey McKenzie.
The attorney for Taye's family, Jennifer Branch, said the video shows another student attacking Taye two days before the suicide. The attacker was threatening and assaulting other boys when Taye walked in and shook the boy's hand, according to Branch. The boy started to shake Taye's hand but then grabbed his arm and yanked him toward the wall. Taye was knocked unconscious for over seven minutes.
Cincinnati Public Schools didn't release the videotape until May, four months after the incident. When it did, Ronan said the video shows Taye fainted and doesn't demonstrate any connection to his death. She also denied the accusation that he was attacked.
Cincinnati Public Schools released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
Cincinnati Public Schools is aware that a lawsuit is being filed in federal court pertaining to the tragic death of Gabriel Taye and allegations that he was a victim of bullying on Cincinnati Public Schools' property.
"As we have stated previously pertaining to Gabriel's passing, "Our hearts are broken by the loss of this child, and our thoughts are with his parents and extended family. He was an outstanding young man, and this is a great loss for his family and our school community.
"A copy of the complete statement previously released on May 12, 2017, is available on
the district's website at https://www.cps-k12.org/news/whats-new/cincinnati-publicschools-releases-carson-school-video.
Now that litigation has been initiated, we offer no further comments regarding this matter at this time."
Police investigated Taye's death but did not file charges. However, after seeing the video, the Hamilton County coroner, Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, reopened her investigation following an initial autopsy that made no connection to bullying.
In July, Sammarco ended her second investigation without adding mention of bullying to his death certificate.
Two days later, the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office announced that no charges would be filed in the boy's suicide.
Through her attorney, Taye's mother said she was disappointed the second investigation didn't determine why Taye had killed himself.
"Before Gabe was buried, neither the Prosecutor nor the Coroner knew Gabe was attacked in the school bathroom two days before he died," Branch said at the time. "Had the video of the attack been uncovered before the autopsy, more evidence may have been available. It is frustrating that the video was not revealed to his family until months after he died."
Sammarco announced that "the review did not reveal any information inconsistent with our original findings." Her office was unable to exhume Taye's body for a second physical exam. It did recover a tablet that had been buried with him.
"The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office accepts the July 8th conclusion of the Hamilton County Coroner and our investigation is now concluded," spokeswoman Julie Wilson said at the time. "No further action is anticipated."