THORNWOOD, Westchester County (WABC) -- A family from Italy is demanding justice after their son died by suicide while studying in Westchester County.
Claudio Mandia's parents say their son's death is the result of punishment for cheating on a math assignment.
Now they are suing the school.
"The level of cruelty is almost unspeakable," said the family's attorney, George Bochetto.
That alleged cruelty, Mandia's parents say, drove their son to suicide.
In February, the teen hanged himself at EF Academy, a private boarding school in Thornwood.
The 17-year-old boy was expelled for cheating on an assignment.
According to the lawsuit, Mandia was ordered out of his dorm room and moved to a stark, bare room.
He was placed in what his lawyers call solitary confinement until his parents could come from Italy to pick him up.
"Claudio was placed in this room, and he was forbidden to leave the room, without seeking the permission of EF officials," said Bochetto.
Mandia was a senior at the school, which caters to international students preparing for college in the U.S.
He was enjoying the experience so much, his younger sister enrolled as well.
"He liked so much to have friends in Mexico, in South Korea," said Mandia's mother, Elisabette Benesatto. "They planned to travel, to go and see each other."
But in January, Mandia was two weeks late returning to campus because of COVID.
Lawyers say he was battling the stress of falling behind in the academically rigorous program while mourning the death of a relative back home.
Lawyers say Mandia should have never been placed in isolation, a practice prohibited in the criminal justice system for minors and not allowed in public schools.
"And yet EF Academy is subject to no statutory or regulatory restriction," said Bochetto. "To us, that is shocking."
In a statement, EF says "at no time was he placed in solitary confinement without social interactions or access to other resources and facilities," adding that the door to Mandia's room was always unlocked.
The family is calling for the creation of Claudio's Law, which would hold private schools to the same regulatory standards as public schools.
Meantime, the Westchester County District Attorney's Office is investigating whether criminal charges should be filed.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text TALK to 741-741 or visit 988lifeline.org/ for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Even if it feels like it, you are not alone.
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