Gabriel's mother got a call from the school to say that her son had 'fainted' in the bathroom. They didn't tell her he'd been beaten up
In a good world, no eight-year-old child should be bullied into taking his own life. In an ideal world, no eight-year-old child should even know what suicide is. In a fair world, Gabriel Taye would still be smiling.
But no. We live in a sick world. A world in which young kids can decide to harass, torment, and emotionally and physically abuse another child to the point that the victim no longer thinks his life – which has barely begun – is worth living.
On 26 January, Gabriel Taye came home from school, dropped his heavy backpack on the floor, tied a rope around the top bar of his bunk bed and hung himself.
'I was in the living room at the kitchen table, and I went back to check on my son and I found him hanging from his bunk bed. I guess he didn't know how to tell me stuff was happening,' said Cornelia Reynolds, Gabriel's devastated mother.
At first, nobody could understand why he had done it. Gabriel was a sweet, happy child, always smiling. He loved reading and making friends. But he was also being bullied.
On 26 January, Gabriel Taye came home from school, dropped his heavy backpack on the floor, tied a rope around the top bar of his bunk bed and hung himself
The 'stuff happening' to little Gabe was vicious bullying. Yet another incidence of school violence. And yet another incidence of bullying which the school – in this case, Carson Elementary in West Price Hill – tried to cover up.
We know this now, thanks to the determination of the Hamilton County coroner, Lakshmi Sammarco. 'It was very hard for me to believe that an 8-year-old would even know what it means to commit suicide and so I asked Cincinnati police to treat this as a homicide until proven otherwise and investigate it fully.'
The police investigation led to an examination of surveillance video footage taken inside Carson School, which reveals that Gabriel was the victim of a brutal attack just two days before his suicide.
The footage shows Gabriel cornered in the bathroom by other boys. He then gets pulled to the ground, where he lays unconscious for around seven minutes, possibly after hitting his head and knocking himself out on the wall or floor. The video shows several boys kicking Gabriel, while others point and laugh, before school staff find and revive him.
That day, Gabriel's mother got a call from the school: her son had 'fainted' in the bathroom. They said nothing about any bullying.
When Cornelia took her son home, he complained of a stomach ache. His mother took him to hospital, thinking he had some kind of stomach flu.
The next day, Cornelia dropped Gabriel off at school as normal.
That day, Gabriel's mother got a call from the school: her son had 'fainted' in the bathroom. They said nothing about any bullying
When Gabriel told his mother he didn't want to go to school, she had no reason to think bullying was the cause. She just assumed he wasn't in the mood.
Cincinnati Public Schools have now issued a statement, recognising that Taye was found unconscious, but disputing the claim that other students had attacked him. They argue that the police officer who viewed the footage and wrote the report misunderstood what was happening and characterised the other children as aggressors when – in CPS's version of events – they weren't. CPS add that it’s not clear if there’s a connection between the school incident and Gabriel's suicide.
Jennifer Branch, a Taye family attorney, disagrees with this version of events. 'As to whether (Taye) was assaulted, we trust the opinion of the Cincinnati Police Detective.'