A Redmond sixth grader killed herself because a boy at her middle school was regularly teasing her about her weight, the girl’s mother says in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Maranda Riboli, mother of 12-year-old Brooklyn Marie Brehm, is suing the Redmond School District, her daughter’s teacher and the school principal in federal court in Eugene, seeking $12 million in damages and $35,000 for funeral expenses.
Riboli’s lawsuit claims the district and educators are responsible for her daughter’s death for failing to intervene.
An older sister found Brooklyn dead at the family’s home April 18, 2017. The 12-year-old left behind notes that said she killed herself “because of this boy,” her mother’s lawyer said.
The girl’s death came two months after her mother emailed and met with her teacher from Elton Gregory Middle School. In the email and personal meeting, Riboli explained that her daughter’s declining academic performance was likely tied to the persistent bullying from a sixth grade boy, according to attorney Rachel O’Neal, who is representing the mother.
The classmate “regularly and frequently fat-shamed” Brooklyn, called her names and ridiculed her for having a crush on someone who he said would never like her because of her weight, according to the suit.
The boy also told Brooklyn “that she should kill herself because she was a waste of space and no boy would ever like her,” the lawsuit said.
The school district failed to follow its own protocol, O’Neal said. The teacher failed to notify the school principal and no investigation was initiated, the suit said.
Brooklyn suffered emotional distress and psychological damage and took her own life “as a direct” result of the district’s “deliberate indifference” to her rights, the suit said. The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Eugene.
The school district, through Gina Blanchette, the executive assistant to Superintendent Michael McIntosh, declined comment on the suit, citing student privacy and respect for the girl’s family.
But the district sent a brief statement by email.
“The District and its staff are dedicated to the safe education of its students. The District fosters a supportive learning environment free from bullying,” it read. “The District and Redmond community was shocked and saddened by the passing of one of its students.”
A school district policy bans “hazing, harassment, intimidation or bullying, menacing, and acts of cyberbullying” by students, staff and third parties toward students. A student who violates the policy is subject to discipline, including expulsion.
Anyone who becomes aware of a complaint is supposed to report it to the principal, who is responsible for investigating, the policy says. The principal and the superintendent are responsible for ensuring that the policy is followed.
It defines “harassment, intimidation or bullying” as any act that substantially interferes with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities or performance, that takes place on or immediately adjacent to district grounds and, among other things, may create “a hostile educational environment including interfering with the psychological well-being of the student.”