The parents of a Carmel High School junior who committed suicide two years ago are suing Carmel Clay Schools and several other defendants in federal court for actions they believe led to their son’s death.
Patrick McCalley, 17, fatally shot himself soon after arriving home from school on Oct. 6, 2016. The lawsuit states that Patrick was an “outstanding student,” a school band member and was looking forward to serving in the U.S. Air Force, but the torment he suffered at CHS that day led him to take his life.
Earlier in the day he had been called to the principal’s office, the lawsuit states, where Assistant Principal Toby Steele and school resource officer Phil Hobson questioned him about two “racially inappropriate Snapchat messages” that he admitted sending to a friend.
The lawsuit states that Steele and Hobson used psychological intimidation and shame to coerce Patrick to write a statement acknowledging that he had committed unlawful acts of repeated bullying. It states he was left in isolation for hours without an advocate or notification of his rights.
“The defendants … interrogated Patrick in such a manner and with the specific intent to cause Patrick extreme and excessive psychological distress, shame and fear and coerced him to speak and/or do what they said,” the lawsuit states. “Patrick was a 17-year-old boy confronted by one or more powerful adults and alone in a closed room and was no match for their inquisition tactics.”
The lawsuit states that after being told he would be expelled or suspended from school, the defendants – who could see that Patrick was extremely distressed – escorted Patrick out of the building and instructed him to leave school property. Patrick drove home and shot himself shortly before other family members arrived. He died from the gunshot wound later in the day.
“When Patrick awoke on October 6, 2016, he was a happy, well-adjusted boy with a bright future,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants took the minor plaintiff alone into a room and continually shamed, badgered and belittled him until they had completely broken his spirit and caused him to suffer from a state of total despair resulting in death.”
Carmel Clay Schools released a statement refuting details of the lawsuit.
“The facts we have gathered in reviewing this tragedy are very different from what is being portrayed in the lawsuit,” it states. “We will follow the legal process to appropriately respond to these accusations. We are fortunate to have tremendous leadership focused on providing a safe learning environment for all of our students at Carmel Clay Schools. We will continue to remain respectful of the privacy of all touched by this tragedy.”
A spokesman for the City of Carmel, which is named as a defendant in the case because it employs Hobson, declined to comment on pending litigation.
The eight-count lawsuit accuses the defendants of due process violations, willful and wonton conduct, negligence, infliction of emotional distress and more. It requests a jury hear the case and award damages, costs, interest and attorney fees.