From the New York Times news section, a classic NYT upside-down article with the big news buried until most subscribers have stopped reading:
The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey on Sunday made a remarkable admission of failure and committed to a new focus on mental health.
By Benjamin Weiser and Tracey Tully
April 30, 2023
Last April, Jack Reid, a 17-year-old junior at one of the nation’s elite boarding schools, tucked a Bible into his gym shorts and a note into his pocket directing his parents to a Google document explaining his feelings of despair. Then, inside his dorm room, he took his own life.
On Sunday, the anniversary of Jack’s death, the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey offered an extraordinary admission of failure, publicly acknowledging that it had been aware that Jack was being bullied by other students, but that it had fallen “tragically short” of its obligation to protect him.
So, “bullying” implies the poor kid was gay, right? The football team must have bullied him for being effeminate, so he killed himself?
“The school acknowledges that bullying and unkind behavior, and actions taken or not taken by the school, likely contributed to Jack’s death,” Lawrenceville officials wrote in in a statement posted Sunday morning on the school’s website.
The school committed to taking a series of corrective actions including endowing a new dean’s position that will be focused on mental health issues, with a goal of becoming a model for anti-bullying and student mental health. …
It offered a candid and detailed catalog of the school’s missteps before Jack’s death and a window into the culture of a private institution where room and board tops $76,000 a year. It also represents shifting attitudes surrounding the mental health crisis among teenagers and the role of bullying in an always complex set of factors that can contribute to suicide.
… Jack was bullied over the course of a year, the school said in the statement posted on Sunday.
… Lawrenceville’s statement said that its settlement with the Reids was aimed at “honoring Jack, taking appropriate responsibility and instituting meaningful changes that will support the school’s aspirations of becoming a model for anti-bullying and student mental health.” ….
“Bullying absolutely can be an important factor that can be part of the multi-factor convergence of things that culminates in suicide,” Dr. Moutier said in an interview, speaking generally and not about Jack Reid’s death or any other specific incident. “But it is not thought, in any case of suicide, to be the sole cause.”
… Jack’s early days at Lawrenceville, where he arrived as a 10th grader in the fall of 2020, were happy ones, his parents said. He made friends and the dean’s list.
Finally, in the 23rd paragraph, we get to the reason Jack was bullied:
But in the spring of 2021, a persistent and untrue rumor that Jack was a rapist spread widely throughout the student body and led to cruel comments from some students, according to his parents.
Huh? This was a Me-Too thing? This was another Duke Lacrosse or Haven Monahan–style rape hoax?
No wonder the NYT hid that away until the 23rd paragraph.
In September 2021, when he returned to school as a junior, he was nonetheless elected president of Dickinson House, one of the residential houses where the school’s boarding students live. That appears to have increased animosity among some of his classmates and caused the rumor to spread further, his parents said.
A few days after the election, the unfounded rape accusation was posted anonymously to a nationwide, student-run app popular with boarding-school students, Jack’s parents said.
The bullying spread quickly online, his parents said, and at Christmastime, during a secret Santa gift exchange among Lawrenceville classmates, Jack received a rape whistle and a book about how to make friends.
Mr. Reid recalled that his son was hurt deeply, and that when Jack came home for Christmas he seemed withdrawn. “Dad, will this ever go away?” he said his son asked him, “Will it ever get off the website?”
Mr. Reid noted that the in-person bullying at school combined with the power of the internet posting compounded the rumor’s impact.
“We think bullying, with the 1,000 times echo chamber of the internet and everybody knowing, is much more devastating to kids and, in Jack’s case, produced a very impulsive act,” he said. “He had to escape the pain from the humiliation he was feeling.”
Early on, with support from his parents, Jack approached school officials and asked them to intervene, leading to a school-led investigation surrounding the bullying and the sexual assault allegation.
The school inquiry found that the claim was bogus, and a classmate involved in spreading the rumors, who was later expelled for an unrelated violation of school rules, was formally disciplined for bullying Jack, according to the school’s statement.
But Lawrenceville never told Jack or his family—or anyone else—that the investigation had concluded that the rumors involving a sexual assault were utterly false.
“There were steps that the school should in hindsight have taken but did not, including the fact that the school did not make a public or private statement that it investigated and found rumors about Jack that were untrue,” Lawrenceville said in the statement. …
The school also acknowledged that it had erred more specifically on the night Jack took his life, just hours after the classmate involved in the bullying was formally expelled. Instead of being supervised as he packed his belongings, the boy was permitted to participate in a drawn-out farewell that included a final run around campus and a group photograph. During the gathering, some students also made harsh comments about Jack, inaccurately blaming him for the boy’s expulsion.
“School administrators did not notify or check on Jack,” the school’s statement acknowledged. “That night, Jack took his life, telling a friend that he could not go through this again.”
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