When 14-year-old Matthew Burdette committed suicide during Thanksgiving vacation last year, he left a note saying he couldn’t handle school anymore and had “no friends.”
What his parents didn’t know then was that the reason their son was so despondent was because a fellow student at Matthew’s school had allegedly videotaped him masturbating in a school bathroom stall and uploaded the clip. The video was quickly passed around by other students and led to Matthew, a water-polo and wrestling team athlete, being “mercilessly bullied,” according to a $1 million claim filed by Timothy and Barbara Burdette against the San Diego Unified School District.
According to CBS News, the Burdettes claim in their suit that a teacher, an administrator and other employees at University City High School possibly knew that Matthew was being harassed but didn’t step in to stop it.
A Boy Scout going for his Eagle rank, Matthew was kicked out of class on November 15 for eating sunflower seeds and not given anywhere to go, so he wandered the halls and ended up in the boys’ bathroom, according to the claim. An unnamed student then allegedly videotaped Matthew, uploading a clip in which it was claimed that Burdette was masturbating to SnapChat and Vine, where it went viral among the schools students and throughout the district.
“From the moment the video was posted, Matthew was mercilessly bullied, harassed and teased by students who had seen the video. This continued for the next two weeks,” according to the claim. Two weeks after the video was posted, Matthew committed suicide. “Matthew took his life as a result of the embarrassment and humiliation caused by bullying related to the video and its distribution,” reads the claim.
The school district rejected the Burdettes’ claim in May and gave the family six months to file a lawsuit, according to the Los Angeles Times. “The district also adheres to the privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations related to students, families and ongoing investigations,” read a statement from the district released this week. “For this reason, the district cannot provide details about Matthew Burdette’s death. Our hearts and thoughts continue to be with his family and loved ones.”
The family believed the boy who took he video had been arrested, but the San Diego district attorney’s office has declined to provide details on the case — in which the alleged perpetrator could face charges under the state’s anti-bullying law.
According to KGTV, the San Diego Police Department told the Burdettes that the boy who took the video had confessed and been arrested, but the DA’s office would not discuss the issue because the case involves a juvenile; a hearing in the matter is set for July 23.