Lawsuit: NJ School District Failed To Address Bullying Leading To Transgender Student’s Suicide

The mother of a high school student in Somerset County has filed a lawsuit claiming that the district failed to take action against the bullying and harassment leading up to her transgender child’s death by suicide.

“When Myles was younger, we didn’t know he was going to be our son, so we called him our daughter and sister,” reads Myles' obituary.
“When Myles was younger, we didn’t know he was going to be our son, so we called him our daughter and sister,” reads Myles' obituary. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Danielle Warshefski

Myles A. Fitzpatrick died by suicide on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022 at the age of 17, just months before he would’ve graduated from Manville High School.

Fitzpatrick’s mother, Danielle Warshefski, has sued the Manville School District alleging that officials “failed to implement any preventative or remedial measures to protect against unlawful harassment and discrimination” during her son’s transition from female to male.

Fitzpatrick entered the district during the 2018-2019 school year and came out as transgender around December 2020, according to the suit, filed in Somerset County Superior Court on Tuesday, May 2.

Fitzpatrick then started transitioning from female to male and using the first name Myles while instruction was fully virtual due to the pandemic, court papers say.

During the course of the 2021-2022 school year, as instruction began in a hybrid format, the suit says Fitzpatrick “became the target of severe harassment, intimidation, and bullying by his fellow students due to his gender identity.”

The bullying consisted of “constant” remarks and insults throughout the school day about Fitzpatrick’s gender identity, transitioning status, appearance, and clothing, the suit claims.

Court papers say Fitzpatrick was harassed, misgendered, and referred to as “she,” as well as being called slurs like “f*ggot” and “overt derogatory references to his gender identity, including that he would never be a male.”

The bullying turned physical, as well — the suit says Fitzpatrick was “pushed into lockers,” along with “having items thrown at him, being kicked and having his hair pulled” in hallways, as well as the boy’s locker room and bathrooms.

On some occasions, the suit says, the bullying took place in front of teachers and/or staff members “without intervention,” resulting in Fitzpatrick’s experience with “severe depression and anxiety,” court papers say.

Fitzpatrick also “engaged in acts of self-mutilation and/or self-harm and attempted suicide,” the former of which sometimes occurred at school — yet even as he was seen during class with “such things as bloody sleeves,” staff members still turned a blind eye, according to the suit.

The bullying continued to escalate, and Warshefski made complaints to both the district and Fitzpatrick’s counselor. Even after Fitzpatrick himself made reports to staff members and teachers, the suit says, the bullying grew worse, and “nothing sufficient was done to address the complaints.”

After enduring the harassment in the boy’s bathroom and locker rooms as well, Fitzpatrick requested and was given permission to use the faculty lounge restroom and/or nurse’s office restroom — but the permission was withdrawn “without explanation” the next year, causing him to have to change in the boy’s locker room once again and continue to endure “severe harassment and bullying by his fellow students,” the suit says.

Warshefski intensified her complaints to the district about its lack of action and even asked if her son could attend virtual classes or be homeschooled, the suit claims — and the district yet again denied her request.

At that point, the suit says, the bullying and harassment continued up until Fitzpatrick’s death.

The lawsuit claims that the district failed to abide by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and “allowed for a severe and pervasive discriminatory and harassing environment to exist based on regular and continuous incidents” surrounding Fitzpatrick’s transition.

The suit further claims that the defendants’ level of misconduct surpasses “all bounds of decency tolerated by our society.”

Warshefski is seeking compensatory damages, consequential damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and other fees pursuant to the LAD.

A statement to Daily Voice from Manville School District Superintendent Jamil Maroun reads:

“Our hearts are broken, and we are grieving for Myles' family, the students who were his friends, and the staff members who taught him. Beyond that, it would not be appropriate to comment on pending litigation.”

Meanwhile, a fundraiser launched shortly after Fitzpatrick’s passing had raised more than $16,500 as of Thursday, May 11. Click here to donate.

“Myles was fiercely loved by his mother, step father, brothers, sister and many other family and friends,” reads the campaign. “They will carry him in their hearts forever, never forgotten.”

Those looking for mental health resources for LGBTQ youth are urged to reach out to The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention support for individuals ages 13 through 24. Other resources can be found at PFLAG.

"Bless your memory, Mr. Myles Fitzpatrick," a recent fundraiser contributor writes. "You deserved so much better. With love."

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