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Parents of gay 14-year-old who took his own life after homophobic bullying launch legal action against school

Relatives of Nigel Shelby allege school officials ignored the student's struggles prior to his tragic death in 2019.

2021-04-13

Words: Will Stroude

The parents of a gay teenager who took his own life after suffering homophobic and racist bullying at school have announced legal action against the local school district. 

Relatives of Nigel Shelby, who was just 14 years old when he died in April 2019, allege that officials at the school he attended in Huntsville, Alabama knew about the bullying and Nigel's deteriorating mental state but failed to intervene or notify his parents prior to his death.

"Fourteen-year-old Nigel Shelby was bullied by his peers for his race and sexual orientation, and when he sought help from school administrators, was told that his sexuality was his choice,” reads a statement from the family's lawyers released on Monday (12 April).

Nigel Shelby was just 14 years old at the time of his death in April 2019

"School administrators did not alert Nigel’s parents of his struggles in school so that he could receive help from a licensed mental health professional. On April 18, 2019, Nigel Shelby died by suicide.

"Following his death, school administrators alerted Nigel’s mother to look for a suicide note in his backpack, revealing that they were aware of his plans to take his own life."

Lawyers representing Nigel's parents Camika Shelby and Patrick Cruz are set to discuss the case in more detail during an online news conference on Tuesday (13 April).

Nigel Shelby

Last month, Huntsville City Schools issued a statement saying it anticipated legal action and that it would not comment further on active or pending lawsuits, AL reports.

The district board added that it had "longstanding resources in place to support students" which include "resources dedicated to supporting the social and emotional needs of students."

The statement added that the district "has a strong Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in place to provide support to LGBTQ+ students."

If you're concerned about your own wellbeing or that of a loved one, call the Samaritans on 116 123 (UK) or 116 123 (Republic of Ireland).

If you're in the US, call The Trevor Project on 1-866-488-7386.