The parents of 14-year-old Matthew Burdette, who committed suicide after allegedly being bullied, had filed a claim of $1 million against the San Diego school district in May.
According to the complaint, on Nov. 15, Burdette's teacher asked him to leave the class for eating sunflower seeds. The unsupervised teen had "no place to go" and wandered the school halls before going to the bathroom.
Without his knowledge, a student videotaped Burdette allegedly masturbating in the bathroom stall. Within hours, the video was uploaded on Snapchat and Vine and went viral among UCHS students as well as students from other schools in the district.
The complaint then states that from the moment the video was posted, "Matthew was mercilessly bullied, harassed, and teased" by students who had seen it.
Despite being aware of the video and ongoing bullying, Burdette's parents claim that the school personnel "did nothing to protect Matthew and stop the harassment that ultimately led to his suicide."
Burdette's parents say that their once "positive and outgoing" son was "visibly wrought with insecurity and depression" as he continued to be bullied days after the video was posted.
Two weeks later, Burdette and his family traveled to their cabin in Crestline, Calif., for Thanksgiving. On the morning of Nov. 29, Burdette's mother found her son had killed himself during the night.
His parents state that their son took his own life as a result of the "embarrassment and humiliation" caused by the video and its distribution.
His parents accused the school district of a failure to supervise students that led to the making and sharing of the video and the consequent bullying.
Burdette's parents say they will be "forced to bear the death of their son for the rest of their lives" and will "suffer both economic and non-economic damages as a result."
The San Diego County district attorney's office declined to say whether the boy the claim says took the video might face charges under the state's anti-bullying law. A spokesman for the district attorney said a hearing is set for July 23 in juvenile court on the matter.
"I don't have hatred for the kid who took this video," Burdette's aunt Laura Burdette Mechak told KGTV Channel 10, which first reported this story. "He was a dumb kid who did a dumb thing. But these kids don't get it. They don't realize how big the cyberbullying world is."
In a statement on Monday, July 14, school officials said, "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. For this reason, the district cannot provide details about Matthew Burdette's death. Our hearts and thoughts continue to be with his family and loved ones."
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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