During the summer of 2019, 16-year-old Imani Bell fell unconscious during her first high school basketball conditioning practice. To the horror of her family, the teenager never regained unconsciousness.
For the Elite Scholars Academy girls’ basketball team, players were required to complete a stair conditioning drill. While Bell ran up and down the stairs with the rest of the team, she collapsed in the midst of the practice. After her body was evaluated by a medical examiner, it was determined that she died from heatstroke. Following her death, the Bell family sued the Clayton County school district for being unable to provide athletes with proper cooling equipment.
According to ESPN, all Georgia-baed high schools must abide by a strict set of rules and must provide athletes with items such as cold tubs, spray bottles, and iced towels on days that reach the upper 90s. However, Elite Scholars Academy failed to do this.
Although the school never recognized fault for the death of Bell, they did settle the lawsuit for $10M and acknowledged the value of her life, which is something the family highly appreciated. “I think for once a school district made a statement that a child’s life is more important than any sport,” said Justin Miller, a representative of the family. “That should be followed by every school around the country.”
Another attorney, L. Chris Stewart, shared that the lawsuit will be an important step in the right direction of keeping schools safe. “It sends a nationwide message to every school district and every athletic program … that the lives of our children matter over athletics, and every district needs to realize that no child should die from heat exhaustion,” he said. “We salute Clayton County for sending that message nationwide.”
Eric Bell speaks out after the death of his teenage daughter
Eric Bell, the father of Imani and a basketball coach himself, said that he believed the settlement to be a “great gesture” and “shows that the school district recognizes the promise was so great for her. It says a lot about her character and what they thought of her character.”
With the help of the settlement money, the family has launched the Keep Imani Foundation, which is an organization that seeks to prevent heat-related death. Per CBS News, Eric Bell expressed the sentiments, “Keep educating coaches, keep educating students about the dangers of heat and humidity, and try to be prepared for a situation like this.”
“‘d trade anything to have her here with me, but we want to keep her name going and this provides an opportunity for our family to keep her name going,” Eric added.
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