12-year-old East Harlem boy Joel Morales hanged himself in a bathroom last May because, according to his family, other kids bullied him relentlessly for two years. Now his parents have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education, the city, and his alleged tormentors. Morales's parents claim they city didn't do enough to shield Joel from the bullying, and they want officials held accountable.

According to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by the Daily News, Joel was "the target of ongoing, severe, brutal physical and emotional abuse and harassment” at PS 102. His mother, Lizbeth Babilonia, says she repeatedly pleaded with school officials to intervene, but her son's alleged tormentors did not let up. And a meeting with school administrators appears to have backfired—after the school got involved, Babilonia says the bullies sneaked into his building and attacked him with pipes.

Finally, Morales was transferred to a different school a few blocks away, but the bullies continued to make his life hell. The lawsuit asserts that Joel suffered from extreme anxiety, and "was a small-framed fragile boy who sometimes stuttered and had problems with fine motor skills. He was extremely short and underweight for his age." NBC New York reports that Joel told a classmate that "a remark about his father, who also committed suicide, sent him over the edge."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. The city Law Department says the case involves "very tragic circumstances," but isn't commenting further because of the pending litigation.
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide: do not leave the person alone, remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt, and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.