Emilie Olsen, 13, was a straight-A student who had an impeccable attendance record at school. She had a penchant for horses and loved to play volleyball. A family friend said she had “a sweet spirit” about her, but on December 11, 2014, the 13-year-old shot herself. It was a tragedy that shook Fairfield, Ohio, where she lived with her parents, Marc and Cindy Olsen. Her parents had adopted her from China when she was just 9-months-old.
According to the Washington Post, Emilie’s parents talked about the relentless bullying their daughter suffered at school. The Olsens were pained that their doting daughter ended her life rather than continue to face the cruelty, but they are even more disappointed because it was something that could have been prevented by officials at her school — Fairfield Intermediate and Middle School.
These allegations were made in an 82-page lawsuit filed by the Olsens. The federal lawsuit has been filed against the Fairfield City School District, a range of administrators, and Emilie’s suspected bullies. In the wake of the allegations, defendants Paul Otten, a Fairfield City Schools Superintendent, and Lincoln Butts, a Fairfield Middle School Principal, have both left their positions.
The lawsuit contends that Emilie had to put up with discrimination about her race and alleged sexual orientation. The lawsuit went on to assert that school officials were aware of what was happening but refused to take action against the abuse being meted out to the young girl. According to the detailed lawsuit, the abuse started in the fifth grade when Emilie began wearing cowboy boots and camouflage-patterned clothing. Her dress sense prompted jeers and taunts from her classmates who said she was “fake country” because “Chinese people don’t wear camo.”
When Emilie entered the sixth grade, things got worse. She was heckled on social media and even had a fake Instagram account called “Emilie Olsen is Gay” dedicated to posting mean and wicked messages about her. Many more social media accounts surfaced devoted to ridiculing the young girl and making derogatory remarks about her. A classmate had allegedly even followed her to the bathroom one day and offered her a razor, telling her to “end her life.” Another day, a fight had broken out after a student slapped Emilie in the face. A teacher broke up the fight but did not lodge any report, instead telling the students to get back to work.
Marc Olsen, in an e-mail written to the school’s assistant principal after learning about the fight, had cautioned, “I have a bad feeling that if nothing is done then this has the possibility to escalate into something worse.”
The worried father subsequently received a phone from one of the principals who said they “were going to take care of the situation.” The bullying intensified in the seventh grade, and by then, Emilie had begun to express suicidal thoughts and self-mutilate herself. Again, the Olsens expressed their concerns but were told by the school that their daughter “needed to buckle down” even though she told administrators that she was scared to return to school.
Physical abusive messages began to appear on walls and stalls in the school bathrooms. According to a complaint, they were in “easily observable” locations and could not have been missed by anyone, including the school authorities. They were never acknowledged, and administrators didn’t remove them in a timely manner. Emilie became withdrawn, her school work began to suffer, and her grades plummeted. In a personality quiz, she described herself as “crying, depressing, yelling and screaming and going into a trance.” Her internet search history revealed growing despair and a cry for help.
On December 1, 2014, in a message to a friend, she said “It hurts when you have to explain yourself to people you don’t know or like. You feel them judging you, staring at you, talking about you, and I’ve made up my mind. I wanna die.”
Emilie shot herself less than two weeks later with her father’s gun.
A jury trial is slated for 2018.
[Image via CristinaMuraca/Shutterstock.com]