In September last year, 14-year-old Lamar Hawkins III went to school, like any other day. Except this time when he arrived, he went into a bathroom stall with his father’s handgun and shot himself in the head.
He was missing for hours, but school officials didn’t look for him, a lawsuit filed by the boy’s parents alleges. He wasn’t found until 11 p.m. in that same stall, straddling the toilet with a gunshot wound in his forehead, WOFL reported.
“He took his life at school to send a message, and the message was clear,” the family’s attorney Matt Morgan told the Orlando Sentinel.
” ‘These bullies drove me to this point so I will commit this act (here) so that they know they did this to me.’ “
With this lawsuit, the family wants the district to be held responsible for the boy’s suicide. His parents claim he took his own life as a result of bullying the administration did nothing to stop, even though they pleaded for their intervention multiple times.
According to the lawsuit, Lamar’s life as an eighth-grader at Greenwood Lakes Middle School was a difficult one. He stood only 4 feet, 5 inches tall because of health complications, and that made him a target for bullying over months by the same classmates, Click Orlando reported.
The sheriff’s department investigated and could find no evidence of bullying, WESH added, and administration chalked it up to teasing. They considered it a matter of interpretation, Morgan said.
“Verbal assaults are bullying. Going online and attacking people on Facebook, on all these various sites, on Instagram… that’s bullying. Just because someone doesn’t have their teeth knocked out everyday doesn’t mean that they’re not going to school and being bullied. That’s the key distinction.”
The board of education does have a bullying policy, which covers cyberbullying and “unwanted and repeated written, verbal or physical behavior that is systematically used to inflict physical hurt or distress on another student.” Eventually, an investigation found that Lamar and his twin sister had been repeatedly teased and called names, but hadn’t been hurt physically, according to the lawsuit.
However, a few days before the boy committed suicide, there was a lunch room fight with another student, during which Morgan said he was “literally slapped out of his chair.” His parents discussed the bullying 10 times with the principal, “scream(ing) at the top of their lungs” in an attempt to stop their son’s torment at the hands of fellow students.
Now, they’re seeking monetary damages for pain and suffering after their son’s suicide. The district wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, but said it plans to “vigorously defend” itself against it. The Hawkins’ family is suing the school board for negligent supervision, negligent failure to adequately discipline bullies, and negligent failure to supervise. The lawsuit also includes an accusation that the administration didn’t keep track of their son the day he went missing and committed suicide.
On that day in September, Lamar was able to access his father’s gun safe; he’d grabbed the wrong keys and left the keys to the safe at home. With his father’s.40-caliber gun in hand, he went to school without a leaving a suicide note. Friends and family said he never talked about suicide before.
Afterward, the lawsuit alleges that officials didn’t search for him, even after a student found a spent casing in the bathroom and reported it. Lamar’s absence wasn’t noted until his parents came to get him at 5 p.m. Investigators searched the grounds and eventually found him later that night.
Besides monetary damages, Lamar’s parents hope the lawsuit will illuminate their son’s story and suicide to raise awareness about bullying.
[Photo Courtesy Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock]