Italian family sues elite NY school after son, 17, placed in 'solitary confinement' ends his life
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WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NEW YORK: An Italian family has filed a lawsuit against a prestigious boarding school in Westchester County after their 17-year-old son died by suicide, alleging that staff members kept the student in "solitary confinement" after he was expelled for cheating. In February, a night before turning 18, exchange student Claudio Mandia had killed himself in a dorm at EF Academy in Thornwood.
According to the lawsuit submitted on November 4 in Westchester County Supreme Court by the Mandia's father, Mauro, and another representative of the boy's estate, the teenager had just been expelled from school for cheating on a math assignment when he was ordered by the school's administrators to stay in a room by himself. In spite of knowing that Mandia had been coping with personal issues that had affected his academic performance, the lawsuit accuses school administrators of contributing to the 17-year-old's death by placing him in solitary confinement while he was emotionally vulnerable.
“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,” the lawsuit read, according to New York Post.
The lawsuit names EF Academy, four school executives, the school's parent firm and 20 more unidentified people as defendants, accusing them of wrongful death, negligence, false confinement and emotional anguish among others. Mandio's family is seeking retribution and punishment for the institution. In a reply to NBC News, a representative for the school refuted the claim that Mandio was "placed in solitary confinement" and said the form contained "multiple inaccurate statements."
“The narrative that is shared in the legal filing is not accurate or based on fact,” the statement reportedly read, further stating, “We are confident that the legal process will allow us to provide and prove a fact-based legal case recounting what actually transpired.”
Mauro and Elisabetta Benesatto enrolled their son at the academy in the fall of 2020 after he showed interest in an international academic experience before enrolling in a university in Italy, according to the lawsuit. However, the academy has a hefty tuition of $66,500 per year for students who live full-time on campus. He was enrolled in the two-year International Baccalaureate Program at the school.
According to the lawsuit, he was described by his teachers as "having a nice sense of humor, helpful and a very good math student" during his first year at the school. He also got an A grade in mathematics in his first year. The teenager ran into problems in 2021. After the school's winter break, he was compelled to spend more time at home in Battipaglia because several members of his family had Covid-19.
“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 alleges. “Then, less than two weeks after his delayed return to campus, [Claudio] suffered the unexpected loss of a close family member, which upset him terribly and caused him to seek counseling from EF Academy’s in-house social worker Chelsea Lovece,” the suit went on to state. It also alleges that Mandio's meals were delivered right to his room, and that he cried and screamed for help while he was being locked away. He was found dead in his room by his sister who was also a student in the school the day he was supposed to leave school.