Chicago Public Schools lawsuit: Mom claims teachers bullied son, 11, before he attempted suicide

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By Michelle Gallardo, ABC7 News

A mother said she is angry and heartbroken after she claims her 11-year-old son tried to take his own life after being bullied by Chicago Public Schools teachers and staff.

The boy survived, but with life-changing injuries. His mother is now part of a group of parents suing Chicago Public Schools.

Over the last three years, at least three legal complaints have been filed against Chicago Public Schools involving cases of alleged bullying of special needs students – not only at the hands of classmates, but of teachers and staff.

In the latest complaint, an 11-year-old’s attempted suicide is blamed on what his mother said was the near-constant harassment of her son. While alive, he will need breathing assistance for the rest of his life.

Jamari Dent tried to hang himself last February. He is now in a hospital bed at La Rabida, unable to breathe on his own, with permanent brain damage.

While a fourth grader and special needs student at Bronzeville’s Woodson Elementary School, his mother said Dent suffered constant insults and even physical abuse. He had already switched schools once and was asking to do so again.

“They were causing the bullying,” said Tierra Black, his mother. “It started with the teachers, what went on with my son. There is no reason my son should be lying in a hospital bed. I asked for help. And I never get it. I never get it.”

Black’s complaint is one of three civil cases against CPS represented by attorney Michael Oppenheimer. That includes a second case against Woodson which resulted in a teacher pleading guilty to criminal battery charges after dragging a special needs student headfirst down a flight of stairs back in 2016.

Oppenheimer said he plans to file an all-encompassing federal lawsuit against the school district.

“I’m calling on Kim Foxx to do a full investigation, a criminal investigation, on these principals – who’ve already been placed on notice as to what’s going on and not doing anything – and to the teachers, who are criminally liable for causing these problems and not fixing them,” Oppenheimer said.

Also standing up was Anthony Townsend Sr. and his 7-year-old son, Zacharion, a second grader at Horizon Science Academy in the Belmont Craigin neighborhood. Townsend said that his son came up with the idea to create a campaign against bullying well over a year ago, and was being harassed by his own teachers. Horizon is not a CPS school and no lawsuit has yet been filed in that case.

“They placed him at a desk with his back facing the rest of the classroom, facing the wall, in between a file cabinet and a row of lockers,” Townsend said.

No date for the filing of this all-encompassing civil rights lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools has been announced. CPS released a statement, which reads in part “The district has no tolerance for adults who harm or fail to protect students. All allegations of bullying and student harm are taken seriously by the district, and we are fully committed to ensuring all students are supported and adults are held accountable.”

This article originally appeared in ABC7 News.

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