Over the last few months, the country has come together to mourn the death of Nigel Shelby, the Alabama teen who took his life because of homophobic bullying. Now his mother, is coming forward to share new developments about the people who she feels have failed her son before his untimely death.
According to Out, Monday, Camika Shelby, released a statement through the National Black Justice Coalition. In it she is alleges that Huntsville High School administrators may have had played a part in contributing to Nigel’s mental distress.
“After my son passed, I learned that he had several discussions about homosexuality with school administrators and was told that being gay was a choice,” Shelby said in the statement.
“I was never contacted by the school and informed that my son was struggling with his sexual identity and regularly having discussions with a school administrator,” she added. “Several hours after my son died, a school administrator called me and told me to look for a suicide note in his backpack. People at his school knew that [he] planned to take his own life. I need to find out who knew and why nobody told me until after he died.”
Now, Shelby has called on famed civil rights attorneys Benjamin Crump and Jasmine Rand to join the team investigating the boy’s death. Crump and Rand also represented the family of Trayvon Martin.
Huntsville City Schools issued the following statement in response to the Camika Shelby’s complaint.
The statement reads:
“We understand that Camika Shelby has retained two attorneys to help her learn more about the events preceding her son’s death. Huntsville City Schools will work with Ms. Shelby and her attorneys to answer questions they may have and to correct any misunderstandings or misinformation, to the extent possible. The effect of Nigel Shelby’s passing is still being felt by the school and district-wide. The administrators and counselors of Huntsville High School had a close relationship with Nigel during his time at the school. They worked with Nigel to ensure that he felt at home at Huntsville High. They were absolutely devastated by Nigel’s passing and tried to do everything in their power to support Ms. Shelby during that difficult time.
As explained at the time of Nigel’s passing, Huntsville City Schools is committed to fostering a culture that is welcoming and inclusive and establishing a learning environment that treats all students with equality and respect. We expect all students to treat each other with courtesy and dignity and to refrain from bullying and harassment. The district addresses bullying and harassment in both our policy manual and code of student conduct (called the Behavioral Learning Guide), with extensive punishments and interventions for the offending student. In fact, the BLG treats bullying and harassment of another student based on an identifying characteristic of that student with heightened disciplinary consequences and interventions. This heightened treatment demonstrates Huntsville City Schools’ commitment to eliminating this type of bullying and harassment in its schools.
Additionally, it has been and continues to be Huntsville City Schools’ practice to partner with organizations who can provide educators with tools to address bullying and harassment in schools. For example, Huntsville City Schools has had a long partnership with the Anti-Defamation League. The district has implemented the Anti-Defamation League’s program “No Place for Hate” in all of its schools for years. In addition to that partnership, Huntsville City Schools has been working with GLSEN Greater Huntsville to incorporate GLSEN’s tools and resources into the district’s trainings for both administrators and faculty.
“Suicide rates of Black gay boys are on the rise as they are struggling with the matrix of oppression presented by being both Black and gay,” David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, also said in Monday’s statement.
“We will work with Nigel’s mother and his attorneys to determine changes that can be made within his school, and other schools in the community, to support culturally competent and intercultural awareness through sex education and other inclusion and anti-bullying policies.”