PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – The family of a 14-year-old South Dakota girl who killed herself at a Native American boarding school has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government, which runs the school.
The family filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in South Dakota. It seeks unspecified compensation for funeral expenses, attorney fees, and pain and suffering.
The girl’s grandfather, Emerson Little Elk, says the staff at the Pierre Indian Learning Center failed to adequately monitor his granddaughter, who he says had a history of depression and threatening to kill herself. She died in October 2015, a couple of months after arriving at the school, according to the Argus Leader , which didn’t name the girl in its story.
The lawsuit says the school placed the girl in counseling after noticing she had trouble with other students and staff promised to see if she was being bullied, but there’s no proof they ever did.
“Self-harm and suicide are ongoing, foreseeable problems with `at-risk’ students at PILIC, as suicide has been identified as a crisis of near epidemic proportions for youth with Tribal connections,” the lawsuit said.
According to the newspaper, the girl hanged herself in a bathroom. A student who saw her screamed, but the lawsuit alleges that four staffers were slow to respond, causing the girl to hang longer than she otherwise might have.
The Pierre boarding school is overseen by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education and serves Native American students with behavioral, mental health and emotional needs in grades one through eight.
The center’s superintendent and a spokeswoman for the Department of Interior didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com