By Muhammad Atef | June 11, 2021

Jamari Dent, who suffered brain damage after trying to kill himself while in fourth grade, has died at 13

Hours before her 13-year-old son Jamari Dent died, Teirra Black went on Facebook and pleaded for prayers.

“He hasn’t been in the best of health lately,” Black wrote of Jamari, who hanged himself in a suicide attempt in 2019 — when he was just 11 — after what his family says was months of bullying by Chicago Public Schools staff and students.

“He’s such a fighter tho!” she wrote at 3:15 a.m. Thursday. “Jamari mommy love you don’t break me, you’re gonna get better.”

That night, Jamari stopped breathing and was taken to Trinity Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:02 p.m.

Teirra Black

Teirra Black
Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

Jamari had suffered permanent brain damage as a result of his suicide attempt, according to the family. Jamari’s 9-year-old sister found him hanging from a coat hook with a bed sheet tied around his neck inside their home. He could no longer walk or talk, and needed a breathing tube, Black has said.

A lawsuit filed by the family claims Jamari’s suicide attempt could have been prevented if officials hadn’t ignored his mother’s pleas to protect her son.

As a fourth grader at Carter G. Woodson Elementary, Jamari suffered bullying that CPS faculty and the administration either ignored or contributed to, according to the federal lawsuit, which is still pending.

“The CPS system has failed Jamari, and other special needs children like him, on a criminal level,” the family attorney, Jon Erickson, said Friday. “And they will be held to account.

“This is the culmination of three years of horrific abuse, neglect and incompetence that resulted in an 11-year-old child feeling he had no option to relieve himself of the pain and cruelty he suffered at the hands of his teachers other than to take his own life,” he said.

Carter G. Woodson Elementary, 4414 S. Evans Ave.

Carter G. Woodson Elementary, 4414 S. Evans Ave.
Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

Teachers and students “repeatedly called [Jamari] ‘stupid,’ ‘dumb’ and ‘retarded’ and joked that he would end up at a facility for students with mental disabilities,” the suit says.

Classmates have recently come forward and provided more detail on abuse from his teachers, Erickson said.

One teacher at Woodson, a white woman, called Jamari “a dirty little n—–” and “stupid and dumb,” according to an amended federal complaint.

Another teacher allegedly put Jamari in a chokehold and shoved his head against a wall. The school’s principal allegedly knew about the abuse and purposely did not tell Jamari’s mother, the complaint states.

“The administration at CPS, particularly the principal, were aware of these allegations and made the political choice to protect themselves, other than protect young Jamari,” Erickson said.

Jamari’s death has left his mother “distraught,” Erickson said.

Chicago Public Schools has said it was conducting its own investigation of the matter. CPS officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ongoing litigation, or the employment status of the two principals and six teachers listed as defendants in the suit.

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