Lawyers who represented Trayvon Martin’s family are investigating the circumstances surrounding Nigel Shelby’s death.
Nigel Shelby committed suicide in April after allegedly being bullied for being gay. His mother alleges workers in the Huntsville City School system told Nigel being gay was a choice and never contacted her.
“People at his school knew that planned to take his own life,” Camika Shelby said in a statement. “I need to find out who knew and why nobody told me until after he died.”
Shelby and her lawyers will be speaking to the media Monday. Watch WZDX News at 5:30 to find out what happens.
Read the entire press release from Shelby’s lawyers:
Huntsville, Alabama– On April 18, 2019, 14-year-old Nigel Shelby died by suicide after constant homophobic bullying for being gay. This Monday, June 10, Nigel Shelby’s mother Camika Shelby will announce that she is retaining nationally renowned civil rights attorneys Benjamin Crump, Esquire and Jasmine Rand, Esquire, to investigate the circumstances involving her son’s death, the bullying he experienced at Huntsville High School, and his school administrators’ role in his decision to take his life. Crump and Rand are best known for their work as nationally renowned civil rights attorneys who represented the family of Trayvon Martin.
Below are statements from Ms. Shelby, Attorneys Crump and Rand, and David Johns, the Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), America’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.
Camika Shelby states: “After my son passed, I learned that he had several discussions about homosexuality with school administrators and was told that being gay was a choice. I was never contacted by the school and informed that my son was struggling with his sexual identity and regularly having discussions with a school administrator. Several hours after my son died, a school administrator called me and told me to look for a suicide note in his backpack. People at his school knew that planned to take his own life. I need to find out who knew and why nobody told me until after he died.”
Attorneys Crump and Rand state: “The administrators at Nigel’s school had a duty to ensure his safety and to address any bullying he experienced because of his sexuality and/or gender identity. Instead, administrators bullied him, told him being gay is a choice, and had several discussions about his sexuality with him instead of informing his mother and leaving it to a professional counselor. As civil rights leaders, we have a duty to ensure all of our children are safe in school and treated with equality, and that educators address and guide children struggling with gender and racial identity issues in a positive and loving way that benefits the growth of the child. We will work hard to determine the role his school contributed in his decision to take his own life and to uncovering the truth surrounding the tragic circumstances of Nigel Shelby’s death for his mother.”
David Johns, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition states: “As educators and caring and concerned adults we are responsible for ensuring that our children are safe and supported. In too many schools and communities throughout the country, Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving students are harassed, bullied, and forced to endure additional stress as a result of their intersectional identities.
Suicide rates of Black gay boys are on the rise as they are struggling with the matrix of oppression presented by being both Black and gay. We will work with Nigel’s mother and his attorneys to determine changes that can be made within his school, and other schools in the community, to support culturally competent and intercultural awareness through sex education and other inclusion and anti-bullying policies.”
Response from Huntsville City Schools:
“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 with Ms. 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.”