Family of Gay 14-Year-Old Who Died by Suicide is Suing School

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday April 13, 2021

Nigel Shelby
Nigel Shelby  (Source:Facebook)

The family of a gay Alabama teen who committed suicide in 2019 is bringing suit against the Huntsville City Schools system, al.com reports.

A news release from the family says that school officials only indicated the boy's troubled state of mind to his parents after his death - and did so by telling them to look for a "suicide note" among his possessions.

"Fourteen-year-old Nigel Shelby was bullied by his peers for his race and sexual orientation, and when he sought help from school administrators, was told that his sexuality was his choice," the news release reads, the al.com story said.

"School administrators did not alert Nigel's parents of his struggles in school so that he could receive help from a licensed mental health professional."

Shelby took his own life on April 18, 2019, the story reported.

"Following his death, school administrators alerted Nigel's mother to look for a suicide note in his backpack, revealing that they were aware of his plans to take his own life," the news release alleges.

Huntsville City Schools issued its own news release, in which it said that the school system "has a strong Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in place to provide support to LGBTQ+ students, and the district has partnered with GLSEN and the Anti-Defamation League to support its schools and students."

Shelby's suicide drew more national attention after Madison County Deputy Jeff Graves posted a comment on social media mocking the youth's suicide.

"Liberty Guns Bible Trump BBQ," Graves posted. "That's my kind of LGBTQ movement."

Added Graves: "I'm seriously offended there is such a thing such as the movement. Society cannot and should not accept this behavior."

Graves was put on leave and then resigned. But three months later he was hired as a law enforcement officer in the nearby town of Owens Cross Roads.

Shelby's family are represented by "renowned civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump," the story said, adding that Crump would be among a number of others expected to comment at a press conference.

Expected at the press conference were Shelby's parents, as well as the head of the National Black Justice Coalition, David Johns.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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