The family of a Georgia teenager found dead in his high school gymnasium last year has sued school officials, accusing them of ignoring patterns of harassment that some believe culminated in his murder.
On Jan. 11, 2013, a group of students at Lowndes High School in the south Georgia town of Valdosta discovered the body of Kendrick Johnson rolled up in an exercise mat in the school gymnasium. His death, local police investigators determined, was an accident — he had climbed into the center of the mat to fetch a shoe and got stuck — but his parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, were not convinced.
They have filed two lawsuits against the school system in the past three months, CNN reports, both claiming that the relevant authorities willfully ignored a string of incidents in which white students antagonized Kendrick, who was black. The most recent, filed this week, points directly at Lowndes High School’s principal, Jay Floyd, as well as Lowndes County’s Board of Education and its superintendent.
Because of their indifference, the suit says, Kendrick was “violently assaulted, severely injured, suffered great physical pain and mental anguish, and subjected to insult and loss of life.”
His parents insist that his death was a homicide, and its aftermath a conspiratorial cover-up. After local authorities officially dismissed this claim, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson solicited the services of an independent pathologist, who identified “unexplained apparent nonaccidental blunt force trauma” to their son’s neck. When that pathologist, Dr. Bill Anderson, opened up Kendrick’s body for a second autopsy, he discovered its organs were missing, and it had been stuffed with newspaper.
Coroners typically remove organs during the initial autopsy but are expected to replace them; Kendrick’s parents complained they were not consulted.
Federal agencies launched an official investigation last fall, but the process of justice has been torpid. An anonymous email sent in January listing four students responsible for Kendrick’s death is not credible, authorities say.