Family sues D.C. charter school after 2018 suicide of 12-year-old girl

Jan. 25, 2019
Lawsuit says SEED Public Charter School knew Stormiyah Denson-Jackson was a suicide risk and did not do enough to prevent her from killing herself.

The family of a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide last year at a Washington, D.C., charter school contends in a lawsuit that school officials did not do enough to prevent her death after she told staff she was contemplating killing herself.

The Washington Post reports that Stormiyah Denson-Jackson, 12, a student at SEED Public Charter School, took her own life in January 2018, about a month after she told school psychologists she “didn’t want to live anymore” and was deemed a “low-level suicide threat,” according to the suit. She had previously attempted suicide, the suit says, and “her grades were suffering and she was getting into trouble frequently.”

SEED’s principal and other administrators were told of the girl's statements, the suit says, but Stormiyah’s parents were not told until after her death. The suit also alleges that school psychologists at SEED were not licensed in Washington, D.C., or trained in suicide prevention.

The suit asserts that Stormiyah — who “bullied others” and “was bullied by others” — met “many of the at-risk factors for suicide” listed in a Washington, D.C., Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

“The SEED School created a special relationship which requires the SEED School to take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of Stormiyah, including implementing measures to address students with mental health needs,” the suit contends. “The SEED School grossly breached this duty resulting in the tragic and unnecessary death of a 12-year-old girl.”

The family is seeking $5 million in damages

SEED’s website says it is “the nation’s first public, charter, college-preparatory boarding school,” with 370 students in sixth through 12th grades. Opened in 1998, it requires students to live in dormitories Sunday through Friday, according to the suit.

The D.C. Public Charter School Board in 2017 forced SEED to shutter its middle school because of low academic performance. The school has not enrolled new middle school students since then and will close entirely at the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

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