Georgia Mom Sues School District After Her Black Teenage Son Dies

"Tomari may had been an afterthought to many, but to me he was everything to me, like just the center of my world," the boy's mom said to ABC News.

Laughing Bird Caye, Belize

The events leading up to 14-year-old Tomari Jackson's death on an international school trip to Belize last year are mystifying: Tomari reportedly drowned in a river, but a small camera strapped to his head showed him crying out for help three times, ABC News reports.

There were classmates and chaperones around him. 

His body wasn't found until the next day. 

Now, his mother, Adell Forbes, is suing the school district along with Monkey Bay Sanctuary, where Jackson was staying in the country, after receiving the footage from the U.S. State Department more than a year later.

"I dropped him off at the airport ... hours later ... I got a call that he was missing," Forbes said to ABC News of Tomari, who attended North Cobb High School in Georgia. "Eventually, someone from the [U.S.] embassy said, 'We recovered his body from 30 feet of water.' Out of all those people there, how could he have just disappeared into thin air?"

Forbes will use the video to take legal action. 

"There were multiple opportunities to save Tomari's life," Forbes said. "In my mind, I'm thinking it takes seconds to extend your hand and pull someone up, so there were multiple opportunities to save him. That's when I realized how deep it was where they were, so it was just mind-blowing that that was allowed to happen."

Forbes' attorney, C.K. Hoffler, said it "took an hour [for chaperones] to realize Tomari, the only African-American boy on that trip, was missing." He said chaperones were "in his plain view" when he died, as evidenced by the footage. 

"And they do nothing," Hoffler said to ABC News. "They should have been watching every single child, and forgive me if I'm angry, but this is unacceptable. My oldest son is the same age as Tomari was ... It's unacceptable, it's inexcusable."

Monkey Bay has made a statement to ABC News regarding the incident: 

"All of us at Monkey Bay and in the local communities where our student guests conduct volunteer service learning projects continue to grieve the tragic loss of Tomari Alijah Jackson, the 14-year old North Cobb High School student who passed due to drowning in Feb 2016 while participating in a study-abroad service learning program. Monkey Bay is an environmental education centre that serves as an Education Abroad hosting facility for schools all over the world. We have been assisting faculty-led programs for the past 23 years, providing students and their leaders access to the natural and cultural diversity Belize offers. Our Monkey Bay Crew is very compassionate about our work. We are in good standing with all local licensing and regulatory agencies, and actively maintain and rehearse safety and security procedures on a recurring basis. Immediately following Tomari's accident, Monkey Bay directors reached out and communicated with Tomari's family and witnessed to his mother Adell what had happened at the Sibun River. Matt Miller, Monkey Bay Managing Director, traveled to Atlanta with Tomari's remains to meet with Adell and personally express our collective sorrow for the accident. We also contributed funds to assist with funeral expenses and later visited Tomari's gravesite in Marietta, GA to pay our respects." 

And still, the question remains — how could this have happened?

Banner and thumbnail credit: Creative Commons, Thomson200

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