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CPS to pay $1.25M to mom of bullied student who attempted suicide in 4th grade, later died

Jamari Dent was 13 years old when he died in June, two years after his attempt to take his life left him with permanent brain damage. The Board of Education will vote on the settlement at its monthly meeting Wednesday.

Jamari Dent before he hanged himself in 2019.
Jamari Dent
Provided photo

Chicago Public Schools has reached a $1.25 million settlement with the family of a student who died of health complications this year after a 2019 suicide attempt that his mother said was caused by staff and students bullying him at school.

Jamari Dent was 13 years old when he passed away in June, two years after the then-fourth grader’s attempt to take his life left him with permanent brain damage and needing a breathing tube with no ability to walk or talk.

Jamari Dent shown hospitalized at Comer Children’s Hospital in 2019.
Jamari Dent shown hospitalized at Comer Children’s Hospital in 2019.
Screenshot from video by Jedidiah Brown

The $1.25 million settlement will be up for a vote by the Board of Education at its monthly meeting Wednesday. Details were first released in the board’s meeting agenda that was posted online Monday.

CPS representatives declined to comment, as did the family’s attorney.

A federal lawsuit filed by Jamari’s mother, Teirra Black, in 2019 alleged her son’s suicide attempt could have been prevented if officials hadn’t ignored her pleas to protect her son. Jamari suffered bullying by his peers and staff at Evers Elementary and later Carter G. Woodson Elementary, according to the lawsuit.

Teirra Black gets a hug from a supporter after the funeral for her son, 13-year-old Jamari Dent, at Greater Harvest Baptist Church at 5141 S. State St. in Washington Park on the South Side, Tuesday, June 22, 2021.
Teirra Black gets a hug from a supporter after the funeral for her son, 13-year-old Jamari Dent, at Greater Harvest Baptist Church at 5141 S. State St. in Washington Park on the South Side, Tuesday, June 22, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Teachers and students “repeatedly called [Jamari] ‘stupid,’ ‘dumb’ and ‘r-------’ and joked that he would end up at a facility for students with mental disabilities,” the suit said. One teacher at Woodson, a white woman, called Jamari “a dirty little n-----” and “stupid and dumb,” according to the complaint.

Another staff member put Jamari in a chokehold and shoved his head against a wall, while the school’s principal knew about the abuse but never told Jamari’s mother, the complaint alleged.

“The CPS system has failed Jamari, and other special needs children like him, on a criminal level,” the family attorney, Jon Erickson, said after Jamari died this summer. “And they will be held to account.

“This is the culmination of three years of horrific abuse, neglect and incompetence that resulted in an 11-year-old child feeling he had no option to relieve himself of the pain and cruelty he suffered at the hands of his teachers other than to take his own life,” he said.

Contributing: David Struett, Sophie Sherry