McKenzie Adams’ family files lawsuit against school following suicide over alleged bullying

Alabama News

DEMOPOLIS, Ala. (WIAT) — A year after a 9-year-old girl’s death in Demopolis, her family is filing a lawsuit against the school and Demopolis City Schools, claiming that constant bullying and the lack of action to stop it were what caused her to kill herself.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. Parties listed in the complaint were U.S. Jones Elementary School, Demopolis City Schools, Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff, former U.S. Jones principal Tori Infinger, assistant principal Tracy Stewart and teacher Gloria Mims.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that the defendants exhibited “deliberate and blatant indifference” to Adams being bullied in school, which lawyers claim included racial and gender-based slurs.

Going further, the complaint stated that the parties knew about Adams’ harassment, but did little to nothing to stop it, failing to enact or enforce bullying regulations as required by Alabama law.

“The Defendants’ indifference to McKenzie’s constitutional rights caused the death of a 9-year old child,” the complaint stated.

On December 3, 2018, Adams hung herself at her grandmother’s home in Linden. Following her death, the school system conducted its own investigation into the family’s claims that Adams was bullied and was the reason she killed herself.

On December 11, 2018, Demopolis City Schools attorney Alex Braswell released the following statement on the system’s findings:

“We have concluded our internal investigation to the allegations of bullying which led to this senseless death. There have been no findings of any reports of bullying by either the student or family. The findings of this internal investigation are consistent with the results of the investigation of the Linden (Alabama) Police Department at this point in time. The Linden Police Department investigation is still pending. All further results will be disseminated as they become available. The Demopolis City School System will continue to have grief counselors, crisis counselors and mental health professionals available to all of our students and teachers.” 

In addition, the Linden Police Department also conducted its own investigation into the family’s claims and came up with nothing.

“At this standpoint, the school is denying any report was made to them of bullying and, so far, we haven’t been able to prove that there was any report made to them,” LPD Chief Robert Alston told The Tuscaloosa News.

However, attorneys for the Adams family claim that the school was aware of how over a four-month period during the 2018-19 school year, a white classmate repeatedly harassed Adams. The complaint stated that in August 2018, McKenzie’s grandmother contacted Mims to request a meeting to discuss the bullying, but never heard back from her.

One part of the complaint alleged that on numerous occasions, Mims would tell Adams to “tell it to the wall because I do not want to hear it” when she told her about being bullied.

The next month, Adams’ grandmother requested another meeting from Mims, but allegedly received a “generic notice” that there was no need for a parent-teacher conference.

“Justice for McKenzie is to make sure that school systems across Alabama are following their obligations and they are addressing bullying,” said Diandra Debrosse Zimmerman, an attorney representing the family.

In an interview with CBS 42 following Adams’ death, Adams’ mother, Jasmine, said her daughter was happy before all the bullying started.

“She told me that this one particular child was writing her nasty notes in class,” Adams told CBS 42. “It was just things you wouldn’t think a 9-year-old should know. And my baby to tell me some of the things they had said to her and I was like ‘Where are they learning this from?'”

Adams’ death was the subject of national media coverage. The family has said they have received letters and messages from people around the world offering their condolences.

Just a month earlier, another 9-year-old girl, Maddison “Maddie” Whittset, committed suicide.

Debrosse Zimmerman said that without question, Adams was bullied and that it led to her death.

“I think once we’re allowed to go through the discovery process, to get the experts we need, we’ll establish this was a major factor and contributing cause,” she said.

When reached for comment Thursday morning, Braswell said he was not aware of any complaint that had been filed by the Adamses.

“You’re telling me some news,” Braswell told CBS 42.


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