15-yr-old dies by suicide after alleged bullying over vax status, parents say ‘toxic’ school culture partly to blame

After being relentlessly bullied over his COVID-19 vaccination status, a 15-year-old boy has died by suicide, and according to his parents, the prestigious Chicago private school he attended failed to do all it could to stop it.

Nate Bronstein transferred into the Windy City’s exclusive Latin School of Chicago last fall a smart, funny kid, but according to his grieving parents, the school’s “toxic culture” led to him preferring death over facing the cruelty of his classmates.”

“I still can’t process it,” Nate’s mother, Rose Bronstein told CBS 2 News.

According to Nate’s father, Robert Bronstein, his son loved to laugh and had plans for his future.

“He definitely wanted to go to a college that had big-time sports,” said Robert. “He loved to make people laugh, and laugh himself.”

The Bronsteins enrolled their son in the $40,0000-per-year Latin School because it allowed in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, and according to a 68-page lawsuit filed by the parents in the Circuit Court of Cook County, they repeatedly expressed their concerns that Nate may have been having trouble adjusting to school administrators.

The Latin School, the claim alleges, kept from the parents the extent of the bullying their son was enduring.

“It had been kept from us, so that’s why we were completely, completely taken off guard when this happened,” Robert Bronstein told CBS.

Rose Bronstein blames her son’s eventual suicide on the school’s “culture.”

“It’s a toxic culture — so toxic that we lost our son from it,” she said.

 

After one student, whose parents are named in the lawsuit, spread a rumor that Nate was unvaccinated, the bullying escalated, the Chicago Tribune reports. Nate was vaccinated, but it didn’t matter, and when the Bronsteins reached out to the bully’s parents, things only got worse for the 10th-grader.

And the bullying didn’t just come from the students.

According to the suit, a teacher told Nate he was going “nowhere in life” in front of a class.

Members of the junior varsity basketball team allegedly bullied the boy in a group text message thread and on Snapchat, a popular social media app.

One circulated Snapchat message told Nate, “Ur a terrible person,” and on Dec. 13, according to the suit, Nate received another Snapchat message from a student who encouraged him to kill himself.

Nate reported the bullying to a school administrator, but, according to the claim, no students were disciplined.

Exactly one month later, Robert Bronstein found his son hanging from a noose in his bathroom shower.

“Our son would still be alive today if Latin would have done their job and reported to us what had gone on within the school,” Rose Bronstein told CBS 2.

“We would have known, and we would have protected him, and he’d still be here today,” she said.

It wasn’t until after their son’s death that the Bronsteins learned — not from the school, but from another parent at Latin — the extent of the bullying and, according to Illinois law, that is a problem for the Latin School.

“Illinois General Assembly Public Act 098-0669 requires that every school in the state, including private schools, have an anti-bullying policy,” CBS 2 reports, and that policy is meant to spell out the procedures for reporting and investigating incidents of bullying. Specifically, it states the parents of those involved must be informed.

But according to school officials, while it “deeply grieves” the student’s death, the Bronsteins’ claims are “inaccurate” and Latin intends to “vigorously defend itself.”

In a statement, the school said, “The allegations of wrongdoing by the school officials are inaccurate and misplaced,” according to the Tribune. “The school’s faculty and staff are compassionate people who put students’ interests first, as they did in this instance.”

According to the complaint, however, the Bronsteins contacted the school more than 30 times, and administrators turned a “blind eye” to the plight of their son, despite the school’s stated “zero tolerance” policy on hate speech.

Following Nate’s death, the suit alleges, Head of School Randall Dunn, along with some school board members, “conspired to withhold all of the above information from law enforcement authorities, from the full Latin Board, from other constituents of Latin and from [Nate’s] family.”

The Bronsteins are seeking an award of $100 million on multiple counts and, according to a news release issued by the family, they say they plan to share any monetary compensation they receive with anti-bullying organizations.

“My son was so alone,” Rose Bronstein said in the release. “Not only were the administrators who were supposed to protect him ignoring his cries for help, but they had the self-serving gall to try to protect their own reputations after his death rather than just having the decency of being honest with his grieving family. This is a legal and moral failure that has caused us indescribably pain and agony,”

If you or someone you know is in need of help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Help is free, confidential, and available 24/7.

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