Last November, a family in San Diego found that their teenage son Matthew Burdette had committed suicide, due to severe bullying following a viral video other students had taken of him. Today the family continues to seek justice for their son’s life from the school.
Matthew’s family remembered him in an interview as a happy, outgoing 14-year-old. “I said to my brother first thing, this little boy has a twinkle in his eye. He just loved life,” said his aunt Laura Burdette Mechak in an interview. “They told me that Matthew had killed himself. I fell on the floor, devastated. I never saw it coming,” she said.
Mechak also said the boy had left a letter. “He said, I can’t do school anymore. I have no friends. I don’t want to kill myself but I have no friends,” Mechak said. Mechak and the boy’s father brought the letter to school officials at University City High School, where they sought answers.
“We asked them specifically to please help us figure out what happened,” said Mechak. However, school officials refused to share any information about what caused Matthew to hate school. “Kids came forwards to help us figure out what was going on,” she said.
According to Matthew’s peers, another student had secretly filmed him over a bathroom stall while the boy was in the restroom. The student then posted on social media sites such as Snapchat and Vine, claiming he caught Matthew masturbating.
From there, the video spread. “It went viral,” said Mechak. “It went beyond his school. It went to other schools in California. Kids in the neighborhood who didn’t go to Matthew’s school had heard about it and seen the video that was taken of him.”
“Kids saw this video and began to tease Matthew mercilessly — they teased him, they harassed him. They made his life miserable over a two-week period,” stated Mechak. It was after those two weeks of bullying that matthew committed suicide, the family said.
After this, the family continued to be stonewalled by University City High School. The family returned to the school and found that the district was aware of the video, because they had already launched an internal investigation. The school would not tell the Burdette family if the student who took the video had experienced any consequences.
“No one would provide them with any answers,” said the family’s representative Allison Worden of Gomez Trial Attorneys.
Worden stated that the school district was at fault for many reasons. She said that a teacher had kicked Matthew out of class for eating sunflower seeds, without giving him a place to go. Worden claims this event led Matthew to wander the halls before winding up in the bathroom.
Worden also said the school district failed to protect Matthew under the California Student Safety and Violence Act of 2000, a law which prohibits harassment of a student based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or perceived sexual orientation.
The Burdettes went to the San Diego Police Department, who reported that the boy who shot the viral video confessed and was arrested.
After failing to make contact with the District Attorney, the boy’s mother wrote the Board of Education for answers. The family found that the Board was not aware of the boy’s case. When they asked if the school district was planning on taking action against the boy who shot the video, they never heard a reply.
The Burdette family decided to get the boys story out, in hopes of receiving some justice. The family took out a claim against the San Diego Unified School District, and currently have six months to file a lawsuit.