An Italian family filed a lawsuit Friday against elite New York boarding school EF Academy after 17-year-old Claudio Mandia hanged himself while in what the suit describes as “solitary confinement.”
The boy was expelled from the pricey school after cheating on a math assignment. He was then forced to wait in a room alone until his parents could retrieve him from the school, and food was brought to him, the suit claims, according to the New York Post. The family says Mandia was vulnerable at the time, after falling behind due to COVID-related issues as well as other factors, and was “falsely imprisoned” by the academy. He was found hanged on February 17, 2022.
“It was painfully foreseeable that forcing [Claudio] into solitary confinement, malnourishing him, and inadequately supervising him after delivering the life-altering news that he would be expelled – all while he was enduring other hardships that EF Academy knew about and was treating him for – could result in his tragic death,” says the suit, filed in Westchester County Supreme Court.
The teen was forced to stay in Italy and miss school when members of his family contracted COVID and Mandia reportedly found himself in a hole academically.
“This caused [Claudio] to fall behind in his academic work, and when [Claudio] did return to campus after being quarantined, he was under a lot of pressure to try and catch up,” the suit claimed.
Compounding matters, the teen suffered a loss in his family. Claudio’s struggles were apparently on the radar of the school, since the boy sought counseling from EF Academy’s in-house social worker Chelsea Lovece, according to the suit.
“EF Academy’s implementation of its solitary confinement protocol, combined with its grossly negligent – and indeed blatantly abusive – handling of [Claudio] known risk factors, was truly outrageous and warrants the imposition of punitive damages to ensure such conduct does not ever happen again,” the suit alleges.
One of the boy’s sisters, who also attended the academy, was worried about Claudio, told Lovece her concerns and asked Lovece to check on her brother. Claudio was then found hanged in the room by a torn bed sheet.
“We remain deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Claudio Mandia, and our hearts go out to his family, friends, and our entire school community during this unimaginably difficult time,” the academy said in a statement, according to the Daily Voice. “The safety of our school community is always our top priority, and we take the physical and mental well-being of our students extremely seriously.”
“The narrative that is shared in the legal filing is not accurate or based on fact. We are confident that the legal process will allow us to provide and prove a fact-based legal case recounting what actually transpired,” the statement added.
The family is seeking punishment for the school as well as compensation, according to the New York Post.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free hotline for individuals in crisis or distress or for those looking to help someone else. It is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.