A San Diego couple says their 14-year-old son committed suicide after a video taken of him allegedly masturbating in a school bathroom went viral and subjected him to constant teasing and bullying.
In a $1-million claim filed against the San Diego Unified School District, the couple, Timothy and Barbara Burdette, say a teacher, an administrator and possibly other employees at University City High School knew of the teasing and bullying but did nothing to stop it.
Matthew Burdette, who was on the water polo and wrestling teams and was a Boy Scout studying for his Eagle rank, killed himself Nov. 29 while the family was at their cabin in Crestline for Thanksgiving.
The boy left behind a note saying he committed suicide because he could no longer “handle school” and had “no friends,” according to the claim.
The parents’ account was first reported on the website of KGTV-TV Channel 10 in San Diego.
The San Diego County district attorney’s office declined to say whether the boy who the claim says took the video might face charges under the state’s anti-bullying law. However, a spokesman for the district attorney said a hearing is set for July 23 in juvenile court on the matter.
Once other students saw the video “they teased him, they harassed him, they made his life miserable over a two-week period,” Matthew’s aunt, Laura Burdette Mechak, told KGTV.
Only after their son’s death did the family learn of the video from other students and its effect on Matthew, the claim says.
In the claim, the Burdettes say they will be “forced to bear the death of their son for the rest of their lives.”
The couple went to the school seeking answers but the staff was not helpful, Mechak said.
The Burdettes’ claim was rejected a month ago, giving the family six months to file a lawsuit.
School officials issued a statement Monday, indicating support for the Burdette family but declining further comment.
“At San Diego Unified, the safety and well-being of our students is a top priority," the statement said. “The district also adheres to the privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations related to students, families and ongoing investigations.”