A California couple believes school officials contributed to their son’s suicide. Matthew Burdette, age 14, took his own life on November 29, 2013. Timothy and Barbara Burdette said their son was subjected to merciless bullying in the weeks preceding his death. According to their claim, school officials were aware of the bullying. However, they did nothing to prevent the harassment.
In his suicide note, Matthew confessed that he hated going to school and “had no friends.” Although the Burdettes suspected their son was struggling, they were not aware he was being bullied. Following Matthew’s death, the Burdettes contacted school officials for answers.
As reported by 10 News, University City High School officials refused to provide the Burdettes with an explanation. The family was eventually forced to question Matthew’s classmates.
Timothy and Barbara Burdette were stunned to learn their son was bullied over a video, which was filmed inside the school restroom on November 15, 3013. According to reports, a student recorded the footage while Matthew was using the toilet. The unnamed student then posted the footage on numerous social networking sites — claiming Matthew was masturbating.
Matthew’s aunt, Laura Burdette Mechak, said the video soon went viral:
“It went beyond his school. It went to other schools in California. Kids in the neighborhood who didn’t go to Matthew’s school had heard about it and seen the video that was taken of him… Kids saw this video and began to tease Matthew mercilessly — they teased him, they harassed him. They made his life miserable… “
Although school officials refused to discuss the incident, Matthew’s parents learned they were aware the teen was being harassed. The district admits they “launched an internal investigation.” However, they never contacted the Burdettes about the situation.
Timothy and Barbara Burdette blame school officials for their son’s suicide, as they failed to intervene. Attorney Allison Worden, who represents Matthew’s family, said school officials are obligated to protect students under the California Safe Place Act and the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act.
The teen who recorded the video eventually confessed to authorities. He was arrested and charged with filming Matthew and distributing the footage. Although the boy is facing criminal charges, the Burdettes believe school officials share the responsibility for their son’s suicide.
As reported by Huffington Post, the Burdettes are requesting $1 million in damages. The family now has six months to file a formal lawsuit.
The school district has refused to comment, as the lawsuit is still pending. However, a spokesperson said “the safety and well-being of [the] students is a top priority.” The Burdettes contend school officials are responsible for their son’s suicide — as they neglected to protect his interests.