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School staff cleared in suicide of girl caught cheating on quiz

A mural of Omotayo Adeoye on a rock near where she was last seen before committing suicide in the Hudson River in May (picture taken from the cover of a report produced by students at the High School for Math, Science and Engineering.
A mural of Omotayo Adeoye on a rock near where she was last seen before committing suicide in the Hudson River in May (picture taken from the cover of a report produced by students at the High School for Math, Science and Engineering.

A city investigator found that staff at a specialized high school in upper Manhattan wasn’t responsible for a student’s suicide after she bolted from class in the middle of the day.

Omotayo Adeoye, a 17-year-old junior the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering, was despondent after being caught in class using a phone during a practice German Regents exam. Adeoye asked to go to the bathroom shortly before class ended, but headed instead to the Hudson River and was last seen alive wading into the fast-flowing currents, according to details released in a report on Monday.

The city’s Special Commissioner of Investigation, Richard Condon, launched the probe on May 30, a day after the incident took place, in response allegations made in the press that Adeoye’s teacher, Eva Malikova, had “chided” her for cheating on the exam.

But interviews with 11 students in Adeoye’s class as part of the investigation disputed that characterization. The students described a brief exchange between Adeoye and Malikova, followed by the teacher warning the entire class against cheating.

“The investigation did not find wrongdoing by the teacher or any other staff member at the school,” Condon said in a press release. The findings were also sent to the Department of Education.

Crystal Bond, the school’s principal, told investigators that Adeoye was found at the same spot on the Hudson in an apparent suicide attempt in January 2013. In that incident, Adeoye had gone missing for three days and posted on Facebook about wanting to end her life before a teacher was able to change her mind, Bond said.

Adeoye wrote similar comments on May 29 in a note on the back of her test before leaving. It read, “I just want to go away forever on the bottom of the ocean.”

Students at the school have struggled to come to terms with the tragedy. They put together their own report about the event that raises questions about whether a swifter response by the school and police could have prevented Adeoye’s suicide.

The students’ seven-page report was obtained by Chalkbeat from one of its authors, who wished to stay anonymous because the administration had told students not to distribute it. The student report, produced by the HSMSE Student Union, says that more than an hour passed between the time when Adeoye’s note was found and when police arrived at the school, “suggesting a delay in the involvement of law enforcement” (Condon’s report notes that Bond called police after the note was found, but does not specify how soon after).

Students wrote in their report that the Hudson should have been among the first places to look for Adeoye given her history, but concludes that “administrators underplayed the possibility of her being at the river.”

Copies of the two reports are below:

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