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Family of Bullied Gay Teen Who Died by Suicide Settles With Alabama School District

Family of Bullied Gay Teen Who Died by Suicide Settles With Alabama School District

<p>Family of Bullied Gay Teen Who Died by Suicide Settles With Alabama School District</p>
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One administrator allegedly blamed the gay student for his social media post and said being gay was a choice.

A school district in Alabama announced it has reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought by the family of a gay teen they claimed died by suicide after he was bullied at school.

The Huntsville City Schools Board of Education agreed to pay $840,000 to the family of Nigel Shelby and do more to fully develop and bring greater awareness to its programs for anti-bullying, LGBTQ+ students, and students at risk of death by suicide. Shelby was a 15-year-old student at Huntsville High School when he died by suicide on April 18, 2019.

Shelby had reportedly been the victim of continual abuse from fellow students based on his race and sexual orientation. The lawsuit claimed school officials ignored the abuse and his pleas for help, and instead blamed him.

“There is no amount of money in the world that could ever replace Nigel,” Camika Shelby, Nigel’s mother, said in a statement. “You can’t put a price on a child. This lawsuit was about bringing change.”

The lawsuit claimed freshman Shelby was regularly abused by fellow students at Huntsville High School who told to take his own life and that he was worthless due to his race and sexual identity. When Shelby and a fellow student sought help with the abuse from school staff, the lawsuit claimed Jo Stafford, the school’s freshman administrator, ignored the abuse and instead suggested Shelby was at fault.

At a meeting on April 11, 2019, attended by Shelby and another student, Stafford allegedly asked Shelby “if this was another one of his episodes where life is getting too hard and things get tough and we want to kill ourselves.”

The student who initiated and attended much of the meeting also claimed Stafford told Shelby he “would have to deal with the comments made in response to his ‘adult’ social media posts about being gay.”

Shelby died a week later.

Another gay student claimed Stafford told him in a different meeting that being gay is a choice.

Stafford is no longer an employee of the Huntsville City Schools. As part of the settlement, the district admitted no liability for itself or its employees in the matter.

“First and foremost, we continue to extend our thoughts and prayers to Nigel’s family, friends, and school community,” Christie Finley, Huntsville City School Superintendent, said in a statement. “While we understand, nothing can replace the life of a student. It is our hope that the settlement will bring a sense of peace and closure for all involved.”

If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities.

The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at or text START to 678678.

Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations.

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