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One year after student’s suicide, school admits it fell ‘tragically short’ of protecting him

<i>Jack Reid Foundation</i><br/>Jack Reid died by suicide on April 30
Jack Reid Foundation
Jack Reid died by suicide on April 30

By Celina Tebor, CNN

On the one-year anniversary of a New Jersey student’s death by suicide, the school he attended admitted it “fell tragically short” of protecting his safety and well-being.

Jack Reid, 17, died by suicide on April 30, 2022, in a residential house at the Lawrenceville School, a boarding and preparatory school in Mercer County, New Jersey.

In a statement released Sunday, the school acknowledged it played a part in failing to prevent his death.

“Lawrenceville’s top priority is the physical, social, and emotional health, safety, and wellbeing of our students,” the statement read. “We recognize that in Jack’s case, we fell tragically short of these expectations.”

Sunday’s statement came after the school reached a “multifaceted settlement” with Reid’s parents, Elizabeth and William Reid.

The private school costs more than $76,000 a year to attend for boarding students and boasts its academic successes in promotional materials, including sending dozens of students to elite and Ivy League colleges like Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.

Reid, a junior at the school, was “universally regarded as an extremely kind and good-hearted young man, with an unwavering sense of social and civic responsibility and a bright future,” the school’s statement reads.

According to his obituary, the teenager was a member of the cross-country and track teams and was president of the Dickinson House, a residential house where Lawrenceville boarding students live: the same house where he killed himself.

Reid was “a victim of bullying and other forms of cruel behavior at Lawrenceville over the course of a year,” including the spread of false rumors online and in person, the school’s statement reads.

The school was made aware of the bullying, the statement said, and investigated the rumors about Reid that it concluded to be false. But the school failed to make a public or private statement releasing the findings of that investigation.

There were also circumstances where the involvement of an adult would have made a difference, Lawrenceville says.

The day of Reid’s death, a student who had previously been disciplined for bullying him was expelled for an unrelated violation of school rules, according to Lawrenceville’s statement. But the school allowed that student to return to the house where Reid lived, “largely unsupervised where students gathered, including some who said harsh words about Jack.”

“School administrators did not notify or check on” Reid, according to the statement. That night, he died by suicide after telling a friend “he could not go through this again.”

“The School acknowledges that bullying and unkind behavior, and actions taken or not taken by the School, likely contributed to Jack’s death,” the school’s statement said.

“We acknowledge that more should have been done to protect Jack,” it said.

In a statement to CNN, Elizabeth and William Reid said Jack Reid was a “happy and well-adjusted teenager with a strong support system that included his friends and devoted family.”

“He loved his school and his community, and treated others with kindness and respect. He had a bright future. We hope no other family suffers such a profound loss,” the statement read. “We never imagined that our happy child could be driven to take his own life. And we believe that if this could happen to our son, it could happen to anyone’s. The damaging effects of bullying and cyberbullying need to be taken more seriously. Jack’s school has acknowledged that there are steps it should in hindsight have taken in response to the bullying, and that it will implement a comprehensive plan to combat bullying on campus.”

The parents have launched a foundation named after their son focused on education and the prevention of bullying, they said. The Lawrenceville School said it would contribute to the foundation.

CNN has reached out to the law firm that represents the Lawrenceville School for comment.

The school says it has undertaken efforts to prevent bullying and protect student mental health, and plans to implement more, including contracting with a specialist on school bullying and making school community members participate in trainings and workshops.

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Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you and your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States. En Español: Linea de Prevencion del Suidio y Crisis: 1-888-628-9454.

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