The family of a 15-year-old Greenwich High School student who shot himself in the head after years of relentless bullying is suing the town on the grounds that school officials knew he was tortured and failed to protect him.
Bartlomiej "Bart" F. Palosz committed suicide on Aug. 27, 2013, the first day of his sophomore year at Greenwich High School. According to a lawsuit filed Aug. 12 in Stamford Superior Court, it was the first time his older sister, a recent graduate, was not there to look out for him.
The complaint alleges that Bart was "subjected to a years-long history of unremitting bullying" at Western Middle School and Greenwich High School. The last time he was bullied was the day he died.
Bart faced years of name calling, teasing and physical violence that left him injured on at least one occasion, according to the complaint. He was kicked and hit on the back of the neck. Classmates stole his pencil and threw it at him and smashed his brand new smartphone.
"Everyone treats him bad because he pushes peoples buttons," Western Middle School Asst. Principal Albert Sackey wrote in a report after Bart was kicked at his locker in 2012, according to the complaint. "Everyone is mean to him."
Bart's performance in class suffered drastically. He stopped turning in his homework and his grades plummeted in the spring of 2013, the complaint alleges. He also began biting his hands in an effort to cope with stress and anxiety.
All the while, school administrators, teachers and counselors left Bart "unprotected and unsupported" despite their knowledge of the bullying he endured, according to the complaint.
"Kids pick on him, very socially akward (sic), bullied regularly, annoying to peers," a middle school employee wrote during Bart's transition to the high school. "Bart gets bullied on a regular basis but he doesn’t tell anyone, needs to be connected, wants to be liked."
Another wrote: "Shoelaces tied together – Stitches in head – hit w/locker. He won’t tell on kids. No self advocacy. Very tall and awakward (sic), will stare at other kids. Wants to be liked."
The complaint claims Greenwich High School "failed to comply" with its anti-bullying policy, which requires staff members to provide victims with emotional support, intervene in and investigate known cases of bullying, file oral and written reports on bullying instances, contact the parents of bullying victims and discipline bullies.
The lawsuit cites Greenwich First Selectman Drew Marzullo as saying, "We as a community failed this child."
Bart's family is suing for more than $15,000 in damages. According to Randy Savicky, director of marketing and public relations for Silver Golub & Teitell LLP, the town is required to respond by Sept. 8.
"We feel this lawsuit is important so that other students in Greenwich don’t suffer the same kind of treatment that Bart did. It is our hope that this lawsuit will result in changes to how the Greenwich school system responds to students in need of help so that there will be no more needless deaths," the family said in a statement Wednesday.
NBC Connecticut has reached out to Greenwich Town Attorney John Wayne Fox for comment on the lawsuit.
SUICIDE PREVENTION: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.