HUNTSVILLE, Ala - A Huntsville mom says she is taking action against bullying and she's enlisted some high-powered help to get some answers in the death of her teenage son.
The mother of a 14-year-old Huntsville High student who died by suicide in April spoke on camera with reporters for the first time Monday. She announced that she has retained two civil rights attorneys to look into the circumstances surrounding her son's death.
Camika Shelby has hired Benjamin Crump and Jasmine Rand, two attorneys who also represented the family of Trayvon Martin.
Camika says her son, Nigel was bullied for being gay. She believes not enough was done by his school to help Nigel and she wants to make sure help is available for other kids.
"Every day I struggle with how do I go on without my purpose," Camika Shelby told reporters.
At a press conference, she explained what life has been like since her 14-year-old son Nigel died by suicide.
"This has been the hardest time of my life," she said.
She says she knew her son was struggling and had even seen counselors and therapists. But after he died, she says she found out that there may have been adults who knew about Nigel's plan to end his life.
"I honestly feel from the bottom of my heart if someone had said something this could have been prevented I feel like I lost my child because he was failed by a system that was supposed to protect him," she said.
Camika says after his death she was told by a staff member to look for a suicide note in his belongings. She says she also found out her son was confiding in a staff member about being bullied for being gay. But Nigel's mother says she was unaware that was happening.
Her attorney Benjamin Crump says when Nigel reported officials, one school employee told him...
"They told him that being gay was a choice as to if it was his responsibility to try to conform so he wouldn't have to continue to be bullied," said Benjamin Crump, Camika Shelby's attorney.
Her lawyers are conducting an investigation.
"Who knew what who knew when who knew exactly what should have been done per policy," Crump said.
The attorneys are calling this a violation of Nigel Shelby's civil rights and they hope to use this to, "Awaken America and the world to the overlapping oppression of being a young black child and being gay."
A spokesperson from Huntsville City Schools released a statement in response to the press conference, pushing back a bit on the idea that school officials didn't try to help Nigel Shelby.
We understand that Camika Shelby has retained two attorneys to help her learn more about the events preceding her son’s death. Huntsville City Schools will work withMs. Shelby and her attorneys to answer questions they may have and to correct any misunderstandings or misinformation, to the extent possible. The effect of Nigel Shelby’s passing is still being felt by the school and district-wide. The administrators and counselors of Huntsville High School had a close relationship with Nigel during his time at the school. They worked with Nigel to ensure that he felt at home at Huntsville High. They were absolutely devastated by Nigel’s passing and tried to do everything in their power to support Ms. Shelby during that difficult time.
As explained at the time of Nigel’s passing, Huntsville City Schools is committed to fostering a culture that is welcoming and inclusive and establishing a learning environment that treats all students with equality and respect. We expect all students to treat each other with courtesy and dignity and to refrain from bullying and harassment. The district addresses bullying and harassment in both our policy manual and code of student conduct (called the Behavioral Learning Guide), with extensive punishments and interventions for the offending student. In fact, the BLG treats bullying and harassment of another student based on an identifying characteristic of that student with heightened disciplinary consequences and interventions. This heightened treatment demonstrates Huntsville City Schools’ commitment to eliminating this type of bullying and harassment in its schools.
Additionally, it has been and continues to be Huntsville City Schools’ practice to partner with organizations who can provide educators with tools to address bullying and harassment in schools. For example, Huntsville City Schools has had a long partnership with the Anti-Defamation League. The district has implemented the Anti-Defamation League’s program “No Place for Hate” in all of its schools for years. In addition to that partnership, Huntsville City Schools has been working with GLSEN Greater Huntsville to incorporate GLSEN’s tools and resources into the district’s trainings for both administrators and faculty.