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updated: 7/4/2014 5:13 PM

Father sues school district over son's suicide

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Associated Press

The father of a southern Illinois teenager who killed himself a day after watching an anti-bullying movie at school has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the district, accusing administrators of failing to stop the relentless taunts targeting his son.

Bradley Lewis' federal lawsuit, filed Monday, names the Carterville school district, its superintendent, the high school principal and football coach, the makers of the anti-bullying video and the owner of the shotgun that 15-year-old Jordan Lewis used to end his life on Oct. 17, 2013.

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Bradley Lewis, of Collinsville, also faults police in Jordan's hometown of Cambria for not doing a sufficient well-being check on the teenager the night before the suicide.

The Carterville High School sophomore routinely was tormented by peers -- including the school's football players -- who slammed his head into lockers, punched and ridiculed him, and at times tried to push him down stairs, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges Superintendent Bob Prusator, principal Keith Liddell and football coach Dennis Drust knew of the bullying but did nothing, fostering a "culture of bullying" despite school policy barring such harassment. Drust, the lawsuit claims, simply told Jordan to "toughen up."

The superintendent, principal and football coach did not return messages left this week by The Associated Press, and the owner of the gun does not have a listed home telephone number.

A day before Jordan's death, Carterville High required students to watch a film titled "Piercing the Darkness," meant to inform students about the potential "darkness" of drug abuse, bullying and disabilities -- and how to brighten their lives and others.

According to the lawsuit, the film "showed pictures of young students that had committed suicide due to bullying." Afterward, the lawsuit submits, Jordan expressed suicidal thoughts to a student, who allegedly told Jordan that he didn't have the nerve to do it.

A friend to whom Jordan Lewis later texted similar thoughts told her grandmother, who notified police. A Cambria officer briefly visited with the boy and his mother and declared him "OK," according to the lawsuit, which faults the officer for not recognizing the teenager "was in imminent danger of hurting himself."

The next morning, his mother returned home after being unable to reach her son and found him dead from a gunshot wound, which the lawsuit alleges was from a shotgun "negligently" kept in an unlocked case at the home by the mother's live-in boyfriend, the lawsuit alleges.

A letter the teenager left behind read, "bullying has caused me to do this (and) those of you know who you are," according to the lawsuit.

The owner of 3Screens.com, the California-based company behind the anti-bullying video, said Wednesday he had not seen the lawsuit but defended the film, saying it had been shown 100 to 150 times "and we've never had a negative word about it."

"This is just a tragic situation," Mark Bixler added in offering condolences to Jordan Lewis' family. "The film is not dark in any way, shape or form, and it clearly was trying to promote the opposite outcome."

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