A prestigious New Jersey boarding school has admitted it didn’t do enough to protect a student who took his own life on campus after being harassed and bullied by his peers, who spread rumors that he was a rapist.
Jack Reid, 17, attended The Lawrenceville School in Mercer County, five miles south of Princeton University, where tuition costs a staggering $76,000 a school year.
On April 30, 2022, Reid took his own life after being subjected to vicious bullying, which was contrived by cruel and misleading rumors labeling him a rapist.
“The school acknowledges that bullying and unkind behavior, and actions taken or not taken by the school, likely contributed to Jack’s death,” Lawrenceville officials wrote in a statement posted on the school’s website on Sunday.
The statement was part of an agreed-upon settlement between the notable boarding school and Reid’s parents, Elizabeth and Bill Reid.
“The only thing I’d love to change here is to get Jack back,” Reid’s father told the New York Times.
Reid arrived at the boarding school in the fall of 2020 as a sophomore, befriending classmates, and winding up honored on the Dean’s list, his parents said.
But the following spring semester, a rumor that he was a rapist began spreading like wildfire through the student body.
Despite the rumor, Reid returned to the school in September of 2021, and was elected president of the residential housing where he lived.
However, the teen’s new role only increased the rumors and bullying, his parents believe.
Reid was continually harassed by students in-person and by anonymous postings online — causing the unvetted rumor to spread outside of school grounds, according to the outlet.
During the holiday season, Reid and his classmates participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange, where he was gifted a rape whistle and a book about how to make friends.
Bill Reid recalled his son asked him if these false accusations would “ever go away.”
A classmate previously disciplined for bullying Reid and determined to be involved in spreading the rumors about him was eventually expelled for an unrelated incident, the school revealed.
The unnamed student was left unsupervised as he packed his things — and during a gathering with peers, he falsely told them Reid was to blame for his being kicked out of school.
The same night, Reid put a bible in his gym shorts pocket and left a note directing his parents to a Google doc that detailed his helplessness.
“He had to escape the pain from the humiliation he was feeling,” Reid’s father said.
Reid’s mother said her son had been seeing a therapist before taking his own life, but never discussed suicidal ideations.
Before his death, Reid had approached school officials to intervene in these false rumors, which prompted the school to investigate the bullying and sexual assault, his parents revealed.
The school found no evidence supporting the rumors and allegations about Reid being a rapist — a fact that the boarding school did not acknowledge in public or in private, according to the outlet.
Though the facility was aware of the ongoing bullying, the elite boarding school has only now admitted failure — one year to the day of Reid’s death.
“There were steps that the School should in hindsight have taken but did not,” the school wrote in their statement.
Neither Reid nor his parents were informed that the school had cleared the teen of the claims before his death.
“We feel like we both have life sentences without the possibility of parole,” Elizabeth Reid told the New York Times.
In the heartbreaking and sorrowful admission, the school believes Reid’s death could have been avoided if adequately addressed, saying, “There also were circumstances in which the involvement of an adult would have made a difference.”
The school, which is among one of the highest-ranking and most sought-after boarding schools in the country, seeks to “improve as a community, we have examined our role and take responsibility for what we could have done differently.”
“We recognize that in Jack’s case, we fell tragically short,” the statement read.
In the statement — part of the settlement agreement — Lawrenceville declared that their students’ “physical, social, and emotional health, safety, and wellbeing” is their top priority.
Included in the settlement, the school will now create a new dean’s position for its 830 students, which will solely focus on mental health issues with the goal of becoming a voice for anti-bullying on campus.
“Jack was universally regarded as an extremely kind and good-hearted young man, with an unwavering sense of social and civic responsibility and a bright future. We continue to mourn this loss,” the statement read.
Unlike public schools, where most have to adhere to state laws that regulate investigations and responses to bullying, private institutions have far more options to determine how they address bullying.
Reid’s father revealed the family hopes to lobby for legislation in New York and New Jersey to broaden the laws associated with bullying at private schools.
“I do know if he were alive, he would want me — both of us — to try to make something good out of this and honor him in the way he lived his life,” his father said.
If you or someone you know is affected by suicidal thoughts or intentions, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text Crisis Text Line at 741741.