A mother is suing her son’s former school district claiming that he took his own life as a result of relentless bullying after he came out as gay.
Tristan Peterson was a 12-year-old student at Woodruff Middle School in the southern New Jersey town of Bridgeton, a city of 25,000 located just 10 miles from the Atlantic coast. Tristan came out to his classmates two years ago but took his own life just months later. His body was discovered at home in December 2017.
According to a lawsuit filed in the New Jersey Superior Court in October, Tristan ended his life after “an extended and persistent period of bullying, intimidation, and harassment.”
His mother, Marcy Peterson, claims in the suit that school faculty and staff “failed to properly and/or prevent the abusive behavior.” She says she complained about the harassment her son face on several occasions and that a member of the staff personally witnessed her son being threatened by another student in November.
“The defendants had a duty to provide for the safety and security of students,” the complaint claims, as NBC News first reported.
The suit charges Woodruff Middle School and the Upper Deerfield School District with wrongful death and neglect, in addition to creating a hostile environment for students. It also accuses the school of violating the state’s LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination laws by failing to protect Tristan Peterson from the abuse he allegedly experienced.
In addition to seeking damages through a civil action, Marcy Peterson is also lobbying for a jury trial against those she believes are responsible for her son’s death. Several staff and administrators are named directly in the suit.
The school and the district have yet to respond to the lawsuit’s filing, and it’s not yet clear when the case will be moving forward.