Jefferson County Public School District is under fire because Seven Charles, a 10-year-old Black boy, killed himself after he endured constant bullying at Kerrick Elementary School in Louisville, his mother says.
Kerrick Elementary is predominantly white and has been ranked as low performing in many areas, including the support of children of color and children from disadvantaged families.
The Charles family is suing the school district.
Tami Charles came home on Saturday to find her son’s lifeless body at 10:30 a.m. Before she left, she had given him chores, most of which he completed.
Seven wore a colostomy bag and had 26 surgeries for a bowel condition. Sometimes, he had an odor. In addition to teasing him for that, one student, who he thought was his friend, called him the n-word and choked him so bad he ended up in the hospital.
The school said they investigated that incident back in September.
Charles had posted a viral video on Facebook questioning the “run around” the school had given them back then. The news reported the story, and still, less than four months later, Seven is dead.
Claims of racial slurs and violence on a Jefferson County Public Schools bus has lit a fire under one mother, determined to stand up for her son.
This could’ve been prevented.
“It wasn’t that JCPS didn’t have these tools, they just weren’t at our school. It wasn’t that they didn’t have these tools to help the victims of bullying, they just weren’t there, they weren’t used,” Charles explained, in an interview.
“When complaints were made, I can tell you they were addressed. But again, we will have a full investigation, a full review to see exactly what happened and if all the policies and procedures were followed,” JCPS spokesperson Renee Murphy said.
Superintendent Marty Pollio said, “Our No.1 thing we have to do right now is to support students and our Kerrick family and the family themselves.”
Pollio said they’ll “get to the bottom of how things were addressed at the school level.”
But, Charles said the administrators were “protecting themselves and their school” rather than saying “How can I help this child'”
Suicides involving children under the age of 16 are rare. In the JCPS district, they have seen an uptick in suicides this year, Seven was the youngest child to take his life.
Back in September, following his hospitalization after the choking incident, Seven said:
“I know that I can get it out of my mind, and tomorrow is like a better day, so I can still make friends with him.”
But, it didn’t turn out that way.
Megan Barnett, board chair of the Kentucky chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said that both bullies and the bullied are at increased risk of suicide.
“We need to be connecting them with mental health services,” she said.
Nationally, in 2017, 522 children from birth to age 14 died by suicide, up from 184 a decade earlier.