Bullied to Death: Chicago’s Most Elite Private School Accused of Contributing to Student’s Death, Cover-Up Afterward
Parents of deceased 15-year-old say the Latin School ignored their son’s numerous cries for help, then later tried to hide the history of bullying after his death
CHICAGO, IL - In January, Robert and Rose Bronstein endured every parent’s worst nightmare when they discovered that their son had died by suicide in the family bathroom.
In the weeks following, the grieving parents were shocked to discover the depth of bullying that their son had endured at the Latin School of Chicago…bullying that the parents say Latin administrators have been trying to cover up ever since.
“We had known that my son was being ostracized and harassed at Latin School,” says Rose Bronstein, grieving mother. “We contacted the administrators over 30 times, but again and again we were rebuffed by staff, including Bridget Hennessy, the 9th and 10th Grade Dean of Students, and Kristine Von Ogden, Upper School Director at Latin.”
Seeing how unhappy their son had become, the Bronsteins made plans to transfer him to a different Chicago school once the semester ended.
“We thought that would be the end of it, but we were so wrong,” says Rose. “Latin knew our son was being bullied (led by the JV basketball team but later school-wide) and never told us. In his last month at Latin, our son was targeted by vicious cyber bullying so widespread that even students in other schools saw the messages on Snapchat and other social media platforms.”
In a lengthy group message with nearly 20 basketball players, the 15-year-old was told “don’t show up tomorrow,” called him a “snake ass n****” and “it’s on sight,” insinuating that the boys intended to physically harm him. A Snapchat widely circulated said “ur a terrible person”.
Shortly before his suicide, the Bronsteins’ son went to Bridget Hennessy, the 9th and 10th Grade Dean of Students. He showed her an obscene and threatening message that was being circulated on Snapchat by the basketball team and other students. Despite the fact that Latin had a legal duty as a “mandated reporter” under Illinois law to inform both the parents and the police about this message, school administrators did nothing.
“Under the Illinois cyberbullying law, Hennessey had ten days to initiate an investigation into the violent Snapchat image my son showed her, but instead she simply asked my son to shake hands with the bully, then quietly declared things patched up. We were never notified about the Snapchat message or even about my son’s meeting with her.”
In the weeks following their son’s death, the Bronsteins say that the Latin School worked overtime to ensure no one would learn about the extent of the bullying.
“It was a cover-up right from the start and it was led by Randall Dunn, the Head of School, and members of the school’s Board of Trustees. We later learned that within days after the suicide, other parents went to the Latin administration, including Randall Dunn, and showed them evidence of the horrific messages that were sent to my son, but the school never shared this information with us or with police. Nor did they disclose that a Latin student reported seeing a Snapchat message that told my son to ‘go kill yourself.’ They don’t care about my son’s death, only about hiding their own failings that led to this avoidable tragedy.”
The Bronsteins demanded that Latin commit to a full and open investigation by outside experts of what occurred, but the school refused. Today, the Bronsteins filed a lawsuit against The Latin School of Chicago which accuses several administrators of failing to uphold their legal duty to investigate their son’s cyberbullying. Named in the complaint are the above-mentioned Randall Dunn, Kristine Von Ogden, Bridget Hennessey, and Upper School Counselors Anneliese Kranz and Jane Knoche, among others.
“My son was so alone,” says Rose. “Not only were the administrators who were supposed to protect him ignoring his cries for help, but they had the self-serving gall to try to protect their own reputations after his death rather than just having the decency of being honest with his grieving family. This is a legal and moral failure that has caused us indescribable pain and agony. It all could have been prevented if Latin had done its job and contacted us the day my son went to Hennessey for help. Had they done so, I know my son would still be here today.”
The Bronsteins aren’t the only parents who say that the Latin School of Chicago has a toxic culture which includes bullying, racism, hate crimes, and more. Indeed, there is an Instagram page for “Survivors of Latin School” with countless alumni sharing their stories of abuse and bullying.
The bullying at Latin School is so widespread that Rose says her son even suffered insults from his own teacher.
“Andrew Sanchez, an Upper School math teacher at Latin, was heard by many students telling my son he would never amount to anything,” says Rose. “What sort of school not only turns a blind eye to this, but then tries to cover up any involvement and leave parents in the dark?”
The Bronstein family wants justice for their son, and when they get it, they intend to share it with the community to ensure no other family ever feels the depth of their pain.
“We don’t want ‘blood money’ for his death. No amount of money could ever help heal the hole in our hearts. All proceeds from this case will go directly to anti-bullying organizations,” says Robert.
The Bronsteins are being represented by a legal team that includes Peter J. Flowers of Meyers & Flowers LLC, Todd Flood of Flood Law PLLC and Michael Weaver and John Sullivan of Plunkett Cooney PLC.
To speak to the Bronsteins about their desperate fight for justice and their desire to hold Latin and its leaders accountable, please contact this office.
“These administrators failed at their primary job: to keep our son safe at school. They cannot plead ignorance, and therefore cannot plead innocence in our son’s death,” finishes Rose.