Desperate: Jacob Hancock, 18, committed suicide after being tormented for years at North Sanpete high school in Utah
Parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit after claiming a school failed to protect their son from years of bullying, hazing and false sex assault allegations that led to his suicide.
Bradd and Edna Hancock were seeking unspecified financial damages against North Sanpete School District in the document filed on January 17.
Their son Jacob Hancock, 18, took his own life on January 21, 2010 in Fountain Green, Utah.
The high school senior was the target of physical and emotional abuse from students and school district employees for more than five years.
The school failed to adequately protect the teenager according to Sonny Olsen, an attorney for the Hancock family.
It was not clear why Jacob Hancock was targeted but court papers said the bullying and harassment began with gay slurs from three male students while Hancock was in the eighth grade.
The abuse escalated to physical assaults, including pushing Jacob Hancock against a wall and a fist fight that ended with all involved being referred to juvenile court, the lawsuit stated.
One assault occurred while Jacob Hancock was naked and showering in the boys' locker room. Teammates reportedly touched his genitals and urinated on his towel.
Following a complaint from his parents, the school district offered to buy Jacob Hancock a new towel.
Similar attacks continued for 18 months without intervention by the district, the lawsuit claims, increasing Jacob Hancock's anxieties and negatively affecting his academic performance.
Jacob Hancock began to lash out at others and suffered a mental breakdown where he was placed on suicide watch.
The bullying and harassment continued into high school and included at least one death threat from another student. Agitated and unable to sleep, Jacob Hancock first attempted suicide in 2008, court papers stated.
Compensation: Jacob Hancock's parents are suing North Sanpete school district in Utah as they claim that employees failed to protect their son from years of bullying
The harassment continued in 2009, including incidents in which Jacob Hancock was physically restrained by a school police officer and hit by another.
The same year, a football coach said publicly that he believed Hancock looked like a pedophile.
The lawsuit also alleged that a high school vice-principal publicly discussed Jacob Hancock's emotional struggles with teachers and students, including stating that Hancock had suffered a mental breakdown.
'It's not like Jacob was a kid that nobody knew about. It we can't save a kid in that setting, then either our policies are wrong or the people that are executing them are not the right people.'
Sonny Olsen, attorney for Hancock family
After his father Bradd Hancock complained about the administrator's actions, Jacob Hancock was accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl and was arrested.
The girl later said she had only been 'tickled' and the charges were reduced.
Jacob Hancock was suspended from school and then unsuccessfully tried to enroll elsewhere.
Those efforts were blocked by false reports from the Sanpete school district that Hancock had been expelled, according to records.
Jacob Hancock committed suicide a few months later.
The lawsuit contends that district officials failed to protect Jacob Hancock properly and did not implement existing policies against bullying, hazing and suicide prevention.
Mr Olsen said: 'It's not like Jacob was a kid that nobody knew about. It we can't save a kid in that setting, then either our policies are wrong or the people that are executing them are not the right people.'
The lawsuit names the school district, its board and the Sanpete County sheriff's office, which provides schools with campus-based officers, as defendants.
The North Sanpete High School and Middle School principals were also individually named in the lawsuit, as were other school employees and two police officers.
Victoria Schoenfeld, spokeswoman for the Division of Risk Management, said: 'We have received the complaint and we understand a suit has been filed, but we're in a phase right now where we are still gathering information.'
Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel said the sheriff's office was aware of the lawsuit and will defend itself against the claims.
Family lawyer Mr Olsen said the Hancocks were bringing the lawsuit two years after their son's death because continued inquiries into how Jacob Hancock was treated suggested school officials were negligent in their handling of the situation.
The lawsuit stated: 'As reported by other students and peers, the harassing conduct was so prevalent and obvious that the responsible adults must have known, and indeed, witnesses it.
'J.H.'s actions in taking his own life were a foreseeable result of the defendant's tortuous acts.’