Lawsuit: School District Ignored Bullying Until 13-Year-Old Killed Herself

| by Nik Bonopartis
Emilie Olsen.Emilie Olsen.

In sixth grade, a bully reportedly followed Emilie Olsen into a bathroom, handed her a razor, and told her to "end her life."

Inside another bathroom, graffiti scribbled on the walls read "Emilie is a whore," and "Go kill yourself, Emilie." And a fake social media account, dubbed “Emilie Olsen is Gay,” said the then-13-year-old liked to have sex with random people in the woods, according to a lawsuit.

Emilie, who told her parents she was scared of going back to school, shot herself in the head Dec. 11, 2014. Now, her family is suing the school district, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, accusing district faculty of ignoring the abuse and failing to do anything meaningful to stop it.

The federal lawsuit seeks damages, as well as reforms to the Fairfield City School District's protocols for dealing with bullying. The attacks on Emilie, who was of Chinese descent and was adopted by her Ohio parents as a baby, often had racially charged elements. Another parent of an adopted daughter from Asia, Ray Schmitz, told the school board in October that a student intentionally tripped his daughter, resulting in a concussion.

The lawsuit details the Schmitz incident, as well as incidents involving two other students who had reportedly tried to kill themselves. Although Emilie's father, Marc Olsen, said his daughter had been suffering from depression and may have been consuming alcohol, it was the three years of continuous bullying that led to her killing herself, he said.

The school district has denied the accusation. A district spokeswoman wouldn't answer questions about details of the lawsuit, but denied the allegation that district faculty didn't do enough to stop the bullying.

"The district will be defending the litigation and will be providing appropriate responses in the course of the litigation," Fairfield Schools spokeswoman Gina Gentry-Fletcher told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Four days after Emilie killed herself, the district released a statement absolving itself of blame, Ohio's WCPO reported.

“There have been many rumors and misinformation about bullying with regard to this tragedy. The district has never had an indication -- by self-report, or reports from others -- that bullying has ever occurred," the district statement read.

A few hours later, a second statement from the school backtracked on the original.

"The middle school administration was advised of previous concerns regarding bullying, however, the district believed the issue had been resolved with the complete satisfaction of the family," the second statement read.

The WCPO report, which included segments of private conversations the district was required to release under freedom of information laws, details three emails Marc Olsen sent to the district in January 2014, and again in August and September. Emilie's father also spoke directly with school officials on Oct. 17 and Oct. 23, according to WCPO. One of the emails specifically mentions the fake social media account mocking his daughter.

“Emilie mentioned two girls … she is having problems with,” he told the school in a January 2014 email, reports WCPO. “From what I understand, there has already been physicality -- kicking, pulling hair, etc. -- between them. Unfortunately, it goes beyond that ... I have a bad feeling that if nothing is done then this has the possibility to escalate into something worse.”

While the district officially claimed it was not aware of continuing problems with bullying, the lawsuit mentions an incident a few days before Emilie killed herself, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. A teacher noticed the teen sat by herself during lunch periods, didn't eat, and responded to questions with one-word answers. The concerned teacher told Emilie's father about his daughter's behavior.

In a Facebook post, Marc Olsen said he will push for changes to make sure the same thing doesn't happen to another child.

"My daughter's death is not in vain," he said, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Good will come of this."

Sources: Cincinnati Enquirer (2), WCPO / Photo credit: New York Daily News