For months, Chicago mother Teirra Black raised concerns about her 11-year-old son, Jamari, getting bullied by students and teachers at Carter G. Woodson South Elementary School, however, no action was taken by school administrators. Then, on February 18, Black experienced her greatest fear, her fourth-grade son attempted suicide.
Now, the mother has filed a federal lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools for ignoring her claims.
Teirra told CBS2 Chicago about the day her son came home in February and pleaded for her to allow him to miss school the next day.
“He said, ‘Mommy, I don’t want to go to school tomorrow.’ He said, ‘I’m tired of them messing with me at that school,’” she told the local news station.
According to the lawsuit, Jamari was repeatedly called “stupid,” “dumb” and “retarded” by students and was singled out by teachers at the elementary school. Black even asked to have her him transferred to another school because of the torment he suffered.
“I asked for help, and I didn’t get it, and I’m so mad,” she told CBS2.
Black tearfully remembered the day she found Jamari with a sheet around his neck.
“I started screaming. I’m like, ‘Jamari!’ I fell to my knees. I said, ‘What did you do, Jamari?’” she said.
Black’s attorney, Jon Erickson, said Jamari suffered a severe brain injury and will need breathing assistance for the rest of his life.
“The diagnosis, first of all, is an anoxic brain injury. He was deprived of oxygen to the brain for over 11 minutes, which means that the neural cells died. He also has chronic respiratory failure,” Erickson told CBS2. “He’s breathing through a tube, and he’s breathing through a tube because of the criminal indifference of the Chicago Public Schools.”
Black said Jamari faced ridicule because he had difficulty learning to read.
“Every time Friday come, I was relieved that my children didn’t have to go to school to endure what was going on at Woodson,” she told CBS2. “Jamari didn’t know how to read. Like, some of the basic words like dog and cat, simple words; he couldn’t get it. It’s not that he didn’t want to learn how to get it, it’s that he couldn’t get it no matter how much I tried.”
“He even cried to me one day,” she added. “He was like, ‘Mommy, I’m trying. I want to know how to read. I just can’t.”
Now, Jamari can barely see, can’t move, and can no longer communicate the same way.
“When I be in that room, and I look at my son, sometimes I take the chair and turn it toward the window so I don’t have to look at him like that,” Black said when asked if she still recognizes her son when she visits him in the hospital.
While the school district is aware of the situation, they decline to provide any information about the case, they say, to protect the student’s privacy.
Chicago Public Schools released the following statements regarding the situation:
“Chicago Public Schools is deeply committed to the safety of all students and fostering welcoming learning environments. The district actively engages families and school communities and offers supports following student incidents, and we are committed to holding accountable any adult who has fallen short of their duty to keep students safe,” Emily Bolton said.
The district also said it launched an investigation, reached out to Jamari’s family to provide support, and deployed crisis assistance resources to students and staff.
“This is a horrible tragedy, and the thoughts and prayers of the Chicago Public Schools community are with Jamari and his loved ones. The allegations that have been made are highly concerning, and the district is conducting a full investigation,” District spokesperson Michael Passman said in a statement.
(Photo: CBS 2 Chicago)
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