Jack Reid, 17, had been falsely accused by an elite New Jersey boarding school of being a victimizer and was driven to despair. Last year, Jack Reid committed suicide with a Bible in his pocket and a note to his parents.
Lawrenceville School, whose tuition is approximately $76,000 per annum, admitted to failing the boy over the weekend, saying that they fell “tragically short” in prioritizing “his physical, social, emotional, safety and wellbeing”.
The school failed to stop the abuse of the boy by other students and withheld evidence of Reid’s innocence, both from the public as well as from Reid’s family.
Jack Reid’s Background:
Reid’s leadership qualities were first demonstrated at Buckley School in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where he served as the chairman of the Student Council. Reid attended Lawrenceville in 2020 as a 10th grader, where he made friends and was on the dean’s list.
It is a boarding school with approximately 830 students, and it’s rated as one of America’s top 10.
The New York Times reported Reid’s life was going well until spring 2021 when his apparent success inspired envy and cruelty among at least one of his peers, who spread the rumor he was a serial rapist.
This rumor spread quickly, leading to further abuse and vile words from other students.
Reid, despite the relentless and unwarranted attacks on him, managed to win the student presidency at Dickinson House. Dickinson House is one of five boarding homes in the school.
Reid’s bully was apparently influenced by the apparent support of the student voters to intensify his attacks.
Bullying manifested itself in different ways. The Times reported that Jack received a rape horn and a book on how to make new friends around Christmas when students participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange.
Online, there are also attacks directed at Reid.
Reid asked his dad if this “ever goes away”? And whether the false accusations would “ever be removed from the website?”
Injustice upon injustice
The school issued a statement on April 30, 2023, detailing the findings of a five-month investigation conducted by its board’s special oversight committee. It noted that “Jack had been a victim of bullying and other cruel behaviors at Lawrenceville for over a year. This included false rumors both in person and on the internet.”
The statement said that “when these behaviors were brought to the School’s attention, there were some steps the School could have taken in retrospect but didn’t.”
Reid, a student reported to have asked for help.
The school conducted an investigation into the allegations of abuse as well as rape. In the case where Reid was accused of rape, the school found him to be innocent. Lawrenceville School, despite determining that Reid had been a man abused, did not make the public aware of this fact, neither telling the school nor the Reid family.
The school expelled one student who was involved in spreading rumors after its initial investigation.
The fact that he was allowed to roam around the campus for hours unsupervised after learning of his expulsion tainted this apparent justice. Reid was again targeted with scorn during the bully’s expulsion trip and was blamed for his exile.
After the bully left, school officials failed to follow up on Reid.
Reid’s suicide occurred on the day of the expulsion of the bully. He told a close friend that he “could not go through it again.”
The Lawrenceville School released a statement that said, “The School recognizes that bullying, unkind behavior, and actions taken or non-actions taken by the school, likely contributed to Jack’s death.”
After Reid’s suicide, the school distributed a document to students and staff that stated: “Blaming others for the suicidal act is wrong and unfair.” This can cause a person to suffer.
Too little, too late
The Lawrenceville School has announced that, in response to its failure to protect Reid in the past, it will hire a specialist who will help create an anti-bullying policy; donate to the Jack Reid Foundation which was set up to educate and combat bullying in his honor; hire a “campus wellbeing dean”; host workshops and training in order to raise awareness about adolescent psychological health; and pursue anti-bullying efforts.
The Times reported that these measures, along with the statement released by the school at the weekend, are part of an agreement negotiated between the parents of the boy, Elizabeth, and Bill Reid.
Elizabeth Reid said about her son’s passing, “We both feel like we have life sentences with no parole.” … The only thing that I would change is getting Jack back. “I can’t get him back.”
She added, “I know that if he was alive, he’d want us to do something good and honor his life.”
Stephen Murray, head of school, said: “This happened under my watch, and I am grief-stricken.” “I can’t even begin to compare it to the sorrow and grief of Bill and Elizabeth Reid.”