Joseph and Jane Clementi, parents of Tyler Clementi, filed notice Friday preserving their right to sue. They have to wait six months after the notice to file a lawsuit over their son's death, which became a symbol in a national outcry over the bullying of young gays.
In the notice, the couple said "it appears Rutgers University failed to act, failed to put in place and/or failed to implement, and enforce policies and practices that would have prevented or deterred such acts, and that Rutgers failed to act timely and appropriately" The claim, first reported by The Home News Tribune of East Brunswick, did not list how much in damages the Ridgewood family would seek.
The notice was given shortly before a 90-day deadline, and the family has not decided whether to move ahead with the lawsuit, Paul Mainardi, a Clementi family lawyer, said in a statement. Without the notice, he said, the family would lose the option to sue.
Rutgers spokesman E.J. Miranda said in a statement that the school is not to blame.
"We at the university share the family's sense of loss of their son, who was a member of our community. We also recognize that a grieving family may question whether someone or some institution could somehow have responsibility for their son's death," Miranda said. "While the university understands this reaction, the university is not responsible for Tyler Clementi's suicide."
Clementi, an 18-year-old violinist in his first weeks of college, killed himself on Sept. 22, days after a roommate and another Rutgers allegedly used a webcam to peek at Clementi's liaison with another man.
The suspects, Dharun Ravi and fellow freshman Molly Wei, were both charged with invasion of privacy and have withdrawn from Rutgers. Authorities say they're weighing whether to charge them with bias intimidation.
Clementi's death came amid a string of high-profile suicides of young people who were gay or perceived to be gay. Partly because of the way he killed himself - jumping off the George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey with Manhattan - Clementi has become a face of the issue.
Some experts fear that his death may have sparked copycat suicides among other vulnerable young people.
President Barack Obama and celebrities including talk show host Ellen DeGeneres have talked publicly about his death and said that young gays and lesbians need to know that life gets better.