A teenage boy from Southern California has committed suicide after a clip of him masturbating in a bathroom stall went viral, leading him to being “mercilessly bullied” at school, Sky News reports.
Now, the parents of 14-year-old Matthew Burdette are suing their son’s school district for $1 million, claiming that the administrators at his school, University City High School in San Diego, knew of the harassment, but did nothing to stop it.
According to his parents’ lawsuit, the harassment began after Burdette was ejected for eating sunflower seeds in the classroom, two weeks before his death. After he left his class, he went to the bathroom, where a classmate allegedly recorded a video of him masturbating while peeking over the top of a cubicle.
After Burdette’s classmate posted the video on Snapchat and Vine (because of course he did), the video quickly went viral and Burdette was relentlessly bullied at school. A gregarious former Boy Scout and member of the school’s water polo and wrestling teams, he became sullen and withdrawn.
Burdette took his own life on November 29 of last year, while on Thanksgiving break with his family. He left behind a note saying he could no longer “handle school” and had “no friends.”
Although Burdette never told his parents about the video, they found out about it after his passing, and went to his high school to ask if they had known about it as well. School officials told the Burdettes only that they had launched an investigation into the provenance of the Vine video, implying that they had. Furious, the Burdettes wrote a letter to the San Diego Unified School District board, demanding to know why they hadn’t put a stop to their son’s harassment—only to receive a letter from the district president saying he knew nothing of the incident.
Now, Burdette’s parents are suing the school district for $1 million. (The boy who filmed the video of Burdette masturbating will likely also face charges under the state’s anti-bullying law, and is set to appear at a hearing in juvenile court July 23). They’re claiming what many other parents of bullying victims who have committed suicide have: That their son’s school was aware of the harassment while it was going on, but did nothing to stop it.
In response to allegations that they essentially turned a blind eye to Burdette’s harassment, San Diego Unified officials issued the following statement:
“At San Diego Unified, the safety and well-being of our students is a top priority. The district also adheres to the privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations related to students, families and ongoing investigations. For this reason, the district cannot provide details about Matthew Burdette’s death. Our hearts and thoughts continue to be with his family and loved ones.”
Requests for further comment from the Daily Dot went unreturned.
H/T Sky News | Photo via Tributes/Matthew Burdette