Emilie Olsen
Emilie Olsen

The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) welcomes a lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of Emilie Olsen, a 13-year-old Asian American who took her life following years of being bullied at school and online.

The lawsuit charges that Emilie was “bullied, harassed, assaulted, battered, and discriminated against.” Those named in the lawsuit include the Fairfield City (Ohio) schools, school officials, and others who failed to stop the bullying. Fairfield is a community located just north of Cincinnati.

National JACL’s interest in this case began on Dec. 17, 2014, when the JACL Midwest Office sent a letter calling on Fairfield school superintendent, Paul Otten, to conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether bullying was a factor that led Emilie to take her life. The school district never responded.

The lawsuit contends that the bullying began when Emilie was in the fifth grade and continued through the seventh grade in 2014. The suit points out specific instances where a student told Emilie to “go cut one of your vanes [sic] and die cuz I will be glad.”

During her sixth-grade year, a fake Instagram account was created, titled “Emilie Olsen is Gay.” The suit also describes physical encounters where Emilie was slapped and pushed. Despite efforts by Emilie’s father to intervene with school officials, the suit contends the school took no action.

The suit seeks damages and changes in policies and practices regarding bullying in the Fairfield schools. This would include mandatory training programs for school faculty and staff on bullying, particularly as it relates to sex, race, and national origin.

National JACL commends the Cincinnati JACL Chapter, members of the Asian American community, and individuals in the Cincinnati area who have played an important role in keeping the tragedy of Emilie’s death before the public, especially in calling for enhanced scrutiny in monitoring for bullying in the Fairfield schools.

These actions have included attendance at school board meetings and organizing a recent candlelight vigil observing the one-year anniversary of Emilie’s death.

The defendants said in a statement: “The Fairfield City School District is aware that a lawsuit has been filed against the district and a number of additional defendants by the Olsens. The district will be defending the litigation and will be providing appropriate  responses in the course of the litigation. The district has no further comment at this time regarding this pending matter.”

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