Parents take on school after son bullied to death
The parents of a 14-year-old boy who took his own life two weeks after a video of him allegedly performing a sex act was widely shared have filed a $1 million (AUD$1.06m) lawsuit against his school district.
Matthew Burdette died in November 2013 while on a Thanksgiving holiday with his parents, two weeks after the video was posted by a classmate online.
In the claim filed against the San Diego Unified School District, Timothy and Barbara Burdette contend that their son was "bullied, harassed and teased" after footage of him in a bathroom cubicle at University City High School was shared across social media websites.
The Boy Scout had been told to leave his class for eating and visited the bathroom, where a classmate then allegedly secretly filmed him before posting the video online.
It claims at least one school or district employee was aware their son was being bullied but did nothing to stop it, KGTV-TV has reported.
According to his parents, their son left a letter saying he could not "handle school", and wrote: "I have no friends".
Their claim states: "From the moment the video was posted, Matthew was mercilessly bullied, harassed and teased by students who had seen the video." After the video was shared, they say their son became withdrawn.
"Matthew's once positive and outgoing personality was now wrought with insecurity and depression," the lawsuit adds.
His aunt, Laura Burdette Mechak, told News 10 the video "went viral" and said "kids in the neighbourhood who didn't go to Matthew's school had heard about it and seen the video that was taken of him."
School officials said in a statement on Monday: "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."
Under California anti-bullying law, the boy who filmed him could face charges. The San Diego district attorney's office said a hearing on the matter is set for 23 July in juvenile court.
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