The parents of a Chicago teen who committed suicide earlier this year are suing Chicago Public Schools and the school board, saying officials ignored signs that the young girl was being repeatedly bullied by students and even one teacher.
McKenzie Phlipot took her own life in May. She was 12 years old and in the sixth grade at the Peirce School of International Studies.
Her family’s attorney, Bob Bingle, said the bullying went on for a over a year and the girl no longer felt safe at the school.
“A couple girls in particular, for instance, in a gym class, (would run) straight at her with a frozen water bottle and hitting her,” Bingle told WGN. “There (were) incidents involving chasing her from the school yard and putting her face up against a fence.”
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The parents’ lawsuit names the school district and its board in the wrongful death of their daughter. The suit alleges the school ignored its own bullying prevention policies.
Her parents also allege their daughter was even singled out by a teacher at the school and treated “differently.”
McKenzie Phlipot’s father, Travis Phlipot, travelled from his Ohio home to speak with local officials in June. He also passed out fliers to parents at the school, telling them to be on the lookout for warning signs that their child might be getting bullied.
“Does your child feel safe at school?” read the fliers signed by Phlipot and the girl's mother, Beth Martin. “McKenzie Phlipot didn't. McKenzie was picked on, bullied by other students as well as a teacher. Even after her mother complained, the bullying continued. She was shoved, punched and even required emergency room visits after being injured at school. One of her teachers repeatedly singled her out and treated her differently than other students. Her family's cries for help were ignored. Nothing was done.”
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McKenzie Phlipot’s social media accounts show evidence that the young girl felt isolated before she took her own life.
“If I died, would you cry?” the girl wrote on Instagram four days before she took her own life. “Would you wonder if I was happy? Would I be on your mind? Would you ever speak my name again? Would you come to my funeral? Would you miss me? Would you think of me? Would you remember all our inside jokes, the memories we created, even if they weren't that serious?Would your heart drop to your stomach when you found out that it was suicide?”
State Sen. Heather Steans promised after the girl’s death that officials would look into the events that led to the student taking her own life.
"There is going to be an investigation into just what happened ... to make sure there's not a culture that tolerates bullying,” Steans told DNAinfo Chicago in June. “It's a good idea to have an investigation to understand if there's anything else the school could be doing to make kids safe.”
That investigation was completed in September and found “no credible evidence of bullying” according to a statement released by the school district.
Her parents don’t find that credible and remain concerned the school didn’t follow its own guidelines to protect their daughter.
They are seeking no less than $50,000 in damages in their lawsuit.
Chicago Public Schools, citing pending litigation, refused to comment on the case.