Chesterton Tribune

Family sues Duneland Schools, assistant principal over suicide

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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 says.

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.



Posted 5/18/2010