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Student was accused of being a rapist and bullied into suicide. His elite boarding school knew he was innocent but didn't bother to clear his name.

Image source: YouTube video, the Lawrenceville School - Screenshot

Jack Reid, 17, was falsely accused of being a rapist and driven to despair at an elite boarding school in New Jersey. With a Bible on his person and a note of direction to his parents in his pocket, he committed suicide last year.

The Lawrenceville School, the tuition for which is roughly $76,000 per year, admitted over the weekend that it failed the boy, falling "tragically short" of prioritizing his "physical, social, and emotional health, safety, and wellbeing."

Not only did it fail to curb the boy's abuse by other students, the school withheld evidence of Reid's innocence from both the public and from Reid's family.

What's the background?

Reid first evidenced his qualities as a compassionate leader at the Buckley School on Manhattan's upper east side, serving as chairman of the student council. Reid went on to attend Lawrenceville as a 10th-grader in 2020, making friends and the dean's list.

The school, located between Trenton and Princeton, has approximately 830 students and is touted as one of the nation's top 10 boarding schools.

The New York Times reported that things went well for Reid until the spring of 2021, when his apparent greatness inspired envy and cruelty in at least one student, who trafficked the rumor that Reid was a rapist.

This rumor reportedly spread widely, eliciting further nastiness and abuse from other students.

Notwithstanding the unrelenting and unwarranted personal attacks, Reid still managed to secure the student presidency of Dickinson House, one of the school's five boarding houses.

The ostensible support of the student electorate apparently inspired Reid's bully to double down on his attacks.

The bullying manifested in various ways. Around Christmas, when students engaged in a secret Santa gift exchange, Jack was gifted a rape whistle and a book about how to make friends, reported the Times.

Attacks directed at Reid also circulated online.

Reid asked his father whether this will "ever go away?" and whether the false accusation would "ever get off the website?"

Injustice upon injustice

The school released a statement on April 30, 2023, detailing the conclusions of five-month investigation undertaken by its board of trustees' special oversight committee, noting, "Jack was a victim of bullying and other forms of cruel behavior at Lawrenceville over the course of a year, including in the form of false rumors in person and online."
"When these behaviors were brought to the attention of the School, there were steps that the School should in hindsight have taken but did not," said the statement.
Reid reportedly sought help from school officials, asking for relief.
The school launched an inquiry into both the abuse and the rape claims. In the case of the latter, they found that Reid was wholly innocent. Despite determining that Reid was a man traduced, the Lawrenceville School did not bother publicizing the fact of his innocence, telling neither the school body nor the Reid family.
Following its initial investigation, the school did, however, expel one of the students who had been involved in spreading the rumors.
This apparent justice was hollowed by the fact that the bully was allowed to hang around campus unsupervised for several hours after receiving news of his ousting. During the bully's expulsion tour, Reid was targeted again with more scorn and blamed for the bully's exile.
Just as school administrators had failed to clear Reid's name, they failed to check on him after the bully's departure.
Reid's suicide took place on the same day as the bully's expulsion. He told a friend "he could not go through this again."
"The School acknowledges that bullying and unkind behavior, and actions taken or not taken by the School, likely contributed to Jack’s death," said the Lawrenceville School's statement.
Following Reid's death, the school circulated a document for students and staff, which stated, "Blaming others for the suicide is wrong, and it's not fair. Doing that can hurt another person deeply."

Too little, too late

The Lawrenceville School indicated that in the aftermath of its fatal failure to protect Reid, it will bring on a specialist to help construct anti-bullying policies; contribute to the Jack Reid Foundation, an educational and anti-bullying foundation set up in his memory; hire a dean of "campus wellbeing"; hold workshops and trainings to promote awareness of adolescent mental health; and pursue other anti-bullying initiatives.

These measures and the statement issued by the school over the weekend are part of a negotiated settlement with the boy's parents, Elizabeth and Bill Reid, reported the Times.

Elizabeth Reid said of her son's death, "We feel like we both have life sentences without the possibility of parole. ... The only thing I’d love to change here is to get Jack back. I can’t."

"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," she added.

Stephen Murray, the head of the school, said, "This happened on my watch and I’m grief stricken. And yet I can’t begin to compare that to the grief and sorrow of Bill and Elizabeth Reid."

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