A former Massachusetts high school student who was expelled about a month after the Columbine High School shootings for allegedly writing death threats on a school bathroom wall has sued school officials for $75 million.
The parents of former Sandwich High School student James Sullivan, 17, filed suit in federal court on their son’s behalf in December alleging that the school failed to stop more than two years of harassment that led to the death threats. The lawsuit also claims that the school violated Sullivan’s civil rights when they expelled him without due process.
An attorney for the school says the suit is without merit.
“The School Committee had the right and duty to act as it did,” attorney Kurt Fliegauf told the Boston Globe. “They take threats of violence, in particular threats of murder, seriously, as they should.”
Sullivan has been accused by the school of writing “I believe in the Trenchcoat Mafia!!! you will die” and listing the initials of four students on a bathroom wall. The Trenchcoat Mafia was the name taken by the killers at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Three days later, Sullivan allegedly wrote “1 day to live, you die on Tuesday” in the same bathroom.
Michael W. Turner, Sullivan’s attorney says his client wrote the second threat, but not the first and says that school officials are to blame for ignoring Sullivan’s complaints about harassment and taunting from classmates who called him fat and gay (Sullivan is not gay) that made school “a living hell.”
“Can you imagine being in a classroom and you raise your hand and someone behind you who is bigger and stronger says “shut up faggot” and everyone laughs,” said Turner. How many times does that happen before you start to get really angry?”
School officials have said that they did act on Sullivan’s complaints. Even if Sullivan’s claims were true, Fliegauf said, “That still doesn’t excuse someone for threatening to kill several students.”
Sullivan has not returned to school since being expelled. One public school rejected his application and his parents say they can’t afford to send him to a private school. His attorney says Sullivan is now working part-time at a gas station.