The parents of a Huntsville, Ala., teen who killed himself in 2019 after being bullied at school for being gay are now suing that school district, reports AL.com, a website for several Alabama newspapers.
Relatives of Nigel Shelby, who was 14 when he died, hope to prove that the school is responsible for civil rights violations and Shelby’s death. They say that Shelby took his life because he was being bullied for being gay and suffering from depression, and that school officials were aware and did nothing.
“Fourteen-year-old Nigel Shelby was bullied by his peers for his race and sexual orientation, and when he sought help from school administrators, was told that his sexuality was his choice,” a news release from the family and their attorneys says. “School administrators did not alert Nigel’s parents of his struggles in school so that he could receive help from a licensed mental health professional. On April 18, 2019, Nigel Shelby died by suicide. Following his death, school administrators alerted Nigel’s mother to look for a suicide note in his backpack, revealing that they were aware of his plans to take his own life.”
The Shelby family is being represented by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump as well as co-counsel Jasmine Rand and Huntsville attorney Lynn Sherrod.
Back in 2019, Shelby’s mother, Camika Shelby, alleged that her son had talked to school administrators about his sexuality and was dismissed. “After my son passed, I learned that he had several discussions about homosexuality with school administrators and was told that being gay was a choice,” she said in a statement released by her attorneys. “I was never contacted by the school and informed that my son was struggling with his sexual identity and regularly having discussions with a school administrator.”
Last month, the Huntsville City School District released a statement saying it was anticipating a lawsuit from the family. In the statement school officials said they usually don’t comment on pending litigation but wanted to make public the resources they do have at the school. “At the district level, pillar two of the district’s strategic plan is Whole Student Development. This pillar includes resources dedicated to supporting the social and emotional needs of students. These include feeder-pattern social workers, licensed mental health professionals, and frequent professional development for staff on topics including culturally responsive instruction; equity and inclusion; and suicide prevention,” the statement read.
“Consistent with the district’s Core Values, HHS has a strong Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in place to provide support to LGBTQ+ students, and the district has partnered with GLSEN and the Anti-Defamation League to support its schools and students,” it continued.
The family’s attorneys will discuss more details Tuesday.
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. You can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.