In September, the world learned of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old New Jersey college student who committed suicide after two fellow students, including Clementi’s roommate, allegedly taunted and bullied him because of his sexual orientation. This week, Clementi’s parents, Jane and Joseph Clementi of New Jersey, have taken the first step in filing a wrongful death lawsuit against New Jersey’s Rutgers University, the site of the bullying that led Tyler to take his life.
Tyler committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York. His wallet and cell phone was found next to the area from which witnesses reported seeing a man jump, and his car was found nearby. One week later, Tyler’s body was pulled from the Hudson River. According to court records, the suicide occurred after Tyler was repeatedly bullied by his roommate Dharun Ravi and Ravi’s friend, Molly Wei, both of whom are 18 years old. Allegedly, Ravi and Wei broadcast Tyler’s sexual encounters with men on the Internet, notifying fellow Rutgers students of the broadcasts and taunting Tyler due to his sexual orientation.
Jane and Joseph Clementi recently filed a notice of claim, which maintains their right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in the next several months. In the notice, the couple alleged that Rutgers did not exercise the duty of care it owed their son, resulting in his death. “Subject to further investigation, it appears that Rutgers University failed to act,” the notice said, “failed to put in place and/or failed to implement, and enforce policies and practices that would have prevented or deterred such acts, and that Rutgers failed to act timely and appropriately.”
Rutgers responded in a statement, noting that while the university is sympathetic to the families loss, it denied responsibility, stating “that a grieving family may question whether someone or some institution could somehow have responsibility for their son’s death.”
Source: CNN, “Parents of gay Rutgers student who committed suicide may sue school”, Jesse Solomon, 23 December 2010