According to a federal lawsuit against an Alabama school system, and the family of Mckenzie Adams, multiple Demopolis City Schools officials failed to protect the 9-year-old girl from racially and gender-based bullying which led to her death by suicide.
Mckenzie Adams took her own life in Linden, Alabama in December 2018. She was a fourth-grader at U.S. Jones Elementary School who had dreams of being a scientist, Al.com reports.
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama in Selma by Birmingham-based law firm Grant & Eisenhofer states Mckenzie faced relentless bullying based on her race and gender by classmates. But the school system officials were indifferent to Mckenzie and her family members’ complaints about the bullying, the lawsuit said. Grant & Eisenhofer filed the lawsuit on behalf of Mckenzie’s mother, Jasmine Adams, and grandmother, Janice Adams.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages.
Demopolis City Schools, and U.S. Jones Elementary School are reportedly listed as defendants along with Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff and former U.S Jones Elementary School principal and assistant principal Tori Infinger and Tracy Stewart. Mckenzie’s fourth grade teacher, identified as Gloria Mims, is also mentioned in the lawsuit.
As of Thursday morning, Kallhoff said he has not seen a copy of the lawsuit and referred all questions to the school board’s attorney Alex Brasswell. At the time this article was published, Brasswell has not responded to phone calls from Al.com seeking comment about the lawsuit.
Al.com reports, that the timeline concerning the bullying Mckenzie endured from the time she was enrolled at U.S. Jones Elementary for the 2018-19 school year until she passed away on Dec. 3, 2018, is as follows. For four months, Mckenzie was targeted by a 9-year-old white male classmate who repeatedly called Mckenzie “ni**er” and an “ugly a** bit**.”:
- August 2018: Janice Adams called Mims and requested a meeting with the teacher to discuss the white student’s behavior and Mckenzie’s state of mind. Adams didn’t receive a phone call from Mims, according to the lawsuit.
- September 2018: Janice Adams contacts Mims again to request a meeting.
- Oct. 1, 2018: Janice Adams received a generic notice saying that there was no need for a teacher-parent meeting. That same month, Janice Adams received Mckenzie’s progress report, which showed that Mckenzie was failing math, which is the subject that Mims taught. Janice Adams believes Mckenzie was struggling in the course because of the emotional toll of being bullied and harassed by her classmate.
- October 12, 2018: Janice Adams went to Mims’ classroom to request a meeting. She also identified the white classmate student, told Mims Mckenzie was being bullied by the student and asked the school to address it. Adams left her number for a follow up meeting. The lawsuit states Mims failed to call Adams back. The lawsuit said Mckenzie told Mims multiple times about the student who was bullying her. The lawsuit states the teacher told Mckenzie multiple times to, “Tell it to the wall because I do not want to hear it.”
- October 24, 2018: The white student passed a note to Mckenzie calling her a “bit**” and a “pus** sucker.” According to the lawsuit, Mims contacted Adams after possessing the note and informed Adams that instead of disciplining the white student who passed the note, Mckenzie would be disciplined for responding to the harassment.
- October 25: Stewart contacted Adams about the note and told Adams that Mckenzie would be disciplined for responding to the bullying. Adams told Stewart that Mckenzie was being bullied and had been a target of bullying since the beginning of the school year. In a three-way phone call with Adam’s and Jasmine Adams, Mckenzie’s mother, Jasmine Adams expressed concerns about the bullying and the fact that Mckenzie was going to be disciplined by the school. Jasmine Adams then told Stewart she was going to contact the Alabama State Department of Education about the persistent bullying. Stewart asked Jasmine Adams not to contact the state department and that the matter will be handled.
- November 5, 2018: Mckenzie writes about two boys who were bullying her at school in her diary.
- Dec. 3, 2018: Attorneys representing the Mckenzie’s grandmother and mother believe the white student told her that she was better off dead and instructed her on how to taker her own life. Mckenzie died the same day in her grandmother’s home in Linden.
Mckenzie was reportedly one of three Alabama students whose deaths made headlines and hearts nationwide during the 2018-19 school year. Mckenzie passed away about a month after another 9-year-old from Birmingham, Madison “Maddie” Whittset, died by suicide in November 2018. Nigel Shelby was 15 when he died by suicide in Huntsville in April 2019. Bullying was cited by family members in all three deaths.