Parents of Student Who Committed Suicide Sue School for Ignoring Warning Signs
The parents of a Farragut High School student who killed himself in April 2017 have filed a lawsuit against the school, claiming school officials brushed off his cry for help.
A couple weeks before 16-year-old Andrew “Will” shot himself in the head, he wrote in a school assignment that he was “scared for myself that I might do something actually harmful for others.” Instead of expressing concern over his message, his teacher Erin Ashe gave him a lower grade for being too brief and wrote, “You might write a full half-page” in the margin.
Will’s parents, Candace and Mark Bannister, found the assignment 13 days after he took his own life. They are now seeking $2 million in damages from the lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses Principal Ryan Siebe and his administrators of bullying Will for standing up for the rights of transgender students to use the bathrooms they want and female students’ rights to wear leggings and ignoring his plea for help.
“Will became an outspoken advocate for students to use the bathrooms of their current gender, a very controversial issue at Farragut High School,” the lawsuit stated.
Siebe and administration allegedly became upset that Will was so outspoken about his beliefs and sought revenge on him through various harassment and bullying tactics, like taking him out of class to investigate anonymous tips against him and falsely accusing him of being on drugs in school. They even punished him with suspension and alternative schooling for having over-the-counter diet pills in his locker.
Will’s parents hired attorney Jeff Whitt to fight the school in the diet pill case. Administrators weren’t too happy about that and allegedly didn’t give him study materials for tests while the case was still pending.
During a December 2016 disciplinary hearing, Whitt showed proof to the administrators that Will didn’t have any drugs in his system when tested and that the diet pills weren’t considered controlled substances under the school’s zero tolerance policy.
Although possession of over-the-counter pills on school grounds only called for no more than 30 days of suspension, Assistant Principal Kimberly Gray suspended Will for 100 days. He was sent to an alternative school.
Will’s suspension was lifted in March 2017 and he was allowed to return to school. However, Siebe allegedly began showing up to Will’s classes quite frequently. Will was nervous that he would get punished unfairly again.
On April 26, 2017, Will told his parents that Ashe told him to redo an assignment and he felt like he was being treated unfairly. He asked his parents if they could sue and his mother told him that they already overturned the suspension and let him return to school.
The next day, Will came home from school, went into the basement and shot himself in the head.
If you or someone you know has a loved one who they believe has suffered from a wrongful death, it may be in your best interest to reach out to Cohen & Cohen, P.C.