Lawsuit: Viral video led to teen's suicide
A San Diego couple says their 14-year-old son committed suicide after a video taken of him allegedly masturbating in a school bathroom went viral and subjected him to constant teasing and bullying.
In a US$1-million (NZ$1.1m) claim filed against the San Diego Unified School District, the couple, Timothy and Barbara Burdette, say a teacher, an administrator and possibly other employees at University City High School knew of the teasing and bullying but did nothing to stop it.
Matthew Burdette, who was on the water polo and wrestling teams and was a Boy Scout studying for his Eagle rank, killed himself November 29 while the family was at their cabin in Crestline for Thanksgiving.
The boy left behind a note saying he committed suicide because he could no longer "handle school" and had "no friends," according to the claim.
The San Diego County district attorney's office declined to say whether the boy who the claim says took the video might face charges under the state's anti-bullying law. However, a spokesman for the district attorney said a hearing is set for July 23 in juvenile court on the matter.
Once other students saw the video "they teased him, they harassed him, they made his life miserable over a two-week period," Matthew's aunt, Laura Burdette Mechak, told KGTV.
Only after their son's death did the family learn of the video from other students and its effect on Matthew, the claim says.
In the claim, the Burdettes say they will be "forced to bear the death of their son for the rest of their lives".
The couple went to the school seeking answers but the staff was not helpful, Mechak said.
The Burdettes' claim was rejected a month ago, giving the family six months to file a lawsuit.
School officials issued a statement on Monday, indicating support for the Burdette family but declining further comment.
"At San Diego Unified, the safety and well-being of our students is a top priority," the statement said. "The district also adheres to the privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations related to students, families and ongoing investigations."
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling
Youthline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234 - Provides 24 hour telephone and text counselling services for young people
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling.
Tautoko: 0508 828 865 - provides support, information and resources to people at risk of suicide, and their family, whānau and friends.
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight)
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm - 6pm weekdays)
If it is an emergency or you feel you or someone you know is at risk, please call 111
For information about suicide prevention, see http://www.spinz.org.nz.
-Los Angeles Times