Family of Georgia Boy Who Committed Suicide Plans Lawsuit

May 11, 2009

The family of a Georgia fifth-grader who committed suicide after his mother said he was continuously teased at a Stone Mountain school plans to sue DeKalb County Schools.

A family member discovered 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera in his Atlanta-area home after he hanged himself on April 16, according to authorities.

Gerald Griggs, the family’s attorney, announced the planned lawsuit at a rally outside a Decatur church. Griggs said the family is seeking an unspecified amount to help fund the Jaheem Herrera Foundation, formed to stop bullying in schools.

“The purpose of the suit is to hold Dekalb County responsible for the actions that lead to Jaheem’s death and to force a change in the school policies on handling bullying,” Griggs said after the rally. “This case will send a message that we as a community will no longer tolerate school systems that tolerate terror in the classrooms.”

A DeKalb County school spokesman did not immediately return a call and e-mail seeking comment.

DeKalb County and Dunaire Elementary principal Carolyn Thompson will also be named in the lawsuit, Griggs said. The county and school district have 30 days to respond to Griggs’ “intent to sue” notice before the lawsuit becomes official.

Jaheem’s mother, Masika Bermudez has said her son often complained of being called names. She said she repeatedly visited Dunaire Elementary, but her son told her the bullying continued.

County schools superintendent Crawford Lewis has acknowledged Bermudez visited the school, though he said it’s unclear how many times. He said county school officials are reviewing anti-bullying policies and investigating allegations of teasing, including a choking incident involving Jaheem.

State law says students involved in three incidents of bullying can be expelled.

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