NJ Mom Sues School Over ‘Persistent bullying’ Before Child’s In-school Suicide
MOUNT HOLLY — An 11-year-old girl who took her own life in a school bathroom was the victim of an “extended, persistent period of bullying” by other students, according to a new lawsuit against the Mount Holly school district.
Elaina LoAlbo filed the suit in Superior Court on Thursday on behalf of her daughter, Felicia LoAlbo-Melendez.
The unresponsive sixth grader was found on the afternoon of Feb. 6 at F. W. Holbein School, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office has said. She was pronounced dead two days later.
According to the lawsuit, the child was the victim of a pattern of bullying and abusive behavior during the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school year, including cyberbullying via cell phones.
“This repeated pattern of bullying and abuse took place despite ongoing complaints lodged by Felicia and her parents to school officials about the bullying,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit includes seven counts of negligence, leveled at the Board of Education, the township and school administrators and counselors.
It asks for judgment of an unspecified amount.
⚪ Girl told to 'unlive yourself' weeks before death, suit says
Other students called Felicia nasty and offensive names, poured water on her desk seat and put gum in her hair, the suit says.
At least two of the other children told the girl to “unlive yourself” in the weeks before her death, the complaint says.
School officials promised to re-arrange Felicia’s assigned classes in January 2023 to lessen contact with her bullies. However, these steps were never undertaken prior to her death, according to the suit.
The sixth grader had also sent emails to school officials, including one in the month before her suicide proposing a “trauma club,” instead of a “drama club,” where students could “go and let out all their feelings and emotions.”
Reports of bullying by Felicia were corroborated by multiple classmates, the suit says — including one who said that the day before the girl was found unresponsive, Felicia had been pushed downstairs by another student.
In addition to the Mount Holly Board of Education and the township, the lawsuit names schools Superintendent Robert Mungo, school principal Daniel Finn and Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying specialist Terry Convery as defendants.
Requests for comment from Mungo and Finn were not answered, either in March after the suicide was confirmed or after the lawsuit was filed last week.
The agonizing loss came on the heels of the death of Felicia’s father.
NJ Transit Detective Alexis "Alix" Melendez died on Jan. 25 with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, according to his obituary.
“No one should have to go through this,” an emotional Elaina LoAlbo said in a social media video, posted the same day that the suit was announced, calling it a “backwards, broken” system.
⚪ Suicide is the third leading cause of death for NJ youth, ages 10 to 24
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between 10 and 24, according to the state Department of Children and Families.
New Jersey's peer support and suicide prevention hotline is staffed by mental health professionals and peer support specialists 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing phone support, assessment and referral.
Anyone in crisis and in-need of immediate help can text or dial 988 or call the New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline at 1-855-654-6735. There also is a chat option on the website.
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Gallery Credit: Erin Vogt