The family of a Chesterton High School sophomore who committed suicide last
year has filed a lawsuit against the Duneland School Corporation and a CHS
assistant principal, claiming that they were responsible for the wrongful
death of the teen.
In a lawsuit filed in Porter County Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper’s court
last week, Alberto and Maria Carrasco of Chesterton seek an unspecified
amount of compensatory and punitive damages stemming from their son’s
suicide on April 8, 2009. The Carrascos are seeking a trial by jury.
The lawsuit, filed by Carrascos’ attorneys Mark Thiros and Stephen Bower,
claims that CHS Assistant Principal Kevin Zeck and the Duneland Schools
violated Michael’s federal civil rights, acted with negligence, were
responsible for Michael’s wrongful death, and inflicted emotional distress
upon family members.
The suit contends that Michael, who was a 16-year-old sophomore at the time,
wrote letters to a female friend that were intended to be private but which
became public during a third block study hall, when the girl’s boyfriend
found the letters and started laughing when he read them.
The laughter prompted the study hall teacher to tell the student to stand up
and read the letters out loud. When the nature of the letters became
apparent, the teacher told the student to stop reading, and she took the
letters to the principal’s office, according to the suit.
The letters included references to a “killing thing” as well as a statement
by Michael saying “who knows how much time I got left to live,” the suit
The suit claims that the office secretary gave the letters to Zeck, who read
the letters. The suit contends that Zeck did not talk with Michael about the
letters or notify his parents, the Chesterton Police Department, or the
school counselor. Such actions are “shocking to the conscience and
demonstrate a reckless disregard of the safety and well-being of the
students,” the suit says.
The lawsuit goes on to say that the way the letters were handled violates
Duneland School Corporation policy. The suit also contends that Carrasco’s
race as a Hispanic played a role in how his situation was handled.
Two days after the study hall incident, Michael’s younger sister, now 13,
found him hanging by a dog leash in the family garage. The suit states that
Duneland School officials turned over Michael’s letters to the Chesterton
Police the day after his death, even though school officials stated that the
letters were turned over earlier.