Parents of Pakistani student allege bullying of son at State Dept-sponsored school led to suicide

The school allowed mistreatment of the student because his father submitted a complaint about its treatment of locals to the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, the parents allege in lawsuit.
School hallway

A student at an elite school in Pakistan sponsored by the U.S. Department of State committed suicide after school officials allegedly singled him out for mistreatment in retaliation for his father's complaint to the U.S. ambassador about the school's treatment of local students, according to a lawsuit filed by the parents. 

The parents of the student, Dawood Khan, are suing the State Department, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, the school and its officials, and an American association for school accreditation over the alleged mistreatment itself or the failure to intervene to stop it. 

In November 2019, just five days before his 18th birthday, Dawood Khan hanged himself in his room, according to his parents' lawsuit, which noted that a police report was subsequently filed. 

Dawood's suicide "was a direct consequence of the inhumane and degrading treatment that he received at Lahore American School (LAS) in Lahore, Pakistan," his father, Lahore-based commercial lawyer Mansoor Khan, alleged in a statement to Just the News. 

"He just needed a few more months at the school to graduate en route to university — but these months were denied him to cause maximum pain to him, and through him to me, the intended target, because I was disliked by the school for having demanded equality and self-respect for the locals," he continued. 

Dawood attended LAS from age seven until his senior year of high school in 2018. He had an IQ above 160, got the highest score on the SAT 1 in his school, "was an avid archer," and played violin at a school for autistic children, according to his father. 

In 2016, Dawood "was selected by the Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG) to attend a summer program conducted at Yale University," which he "successfully completed," according to his parents' lawsuit. The next year, Khan "was selected by Harvard University for its summer school," where he "opted for the most rigorous and demanding Quantum Physics module which he successfully completed." 

Dawood was borderline autistic and "had a rare eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa," a condition which meant that he might have eventually lost his central or peripheral vision, but he wouldn't become blind, his father told Just the News. 

Despite the eye condition, "I can move around any given area without problems, and with proper lighting I can read as well as any other student," Dawood wrote in a letter to an attorney months before his death. "There normally aren't any problems within the classroom, as I use magnifiers and telescopes as necessary."

The issues at the school began in 2016, when Dawood "was acutely harassed and intimidated by some" classmates at the school," according to the parents' complaint. As a result, the boy didn't "go to the school for an extended period of time and had to be hospitalized on account of the psychological trauma that he suffered." 

Dawood's father formally complained to the school administration regarding the harassment, but no action was taken against the students, the lawsuit alleges. Mansoor then submitted a complaint to the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. 

"Under the school's constitution, the American ambassador to Pakistan is the ex-officio honorary chairperson of the school board and a regular director," Mansoor Khan explained to Just the News. 

"The school," he continued, "receives funding from the US government; is registered with the State Department's Office of Overseas Schools; and the school even uses the address of US Department of State in Washington DC on its letterhead to prove its close association with the US government."

The school "is a Middle States Association (MSA) accredited school in Lahore, Pakistan," according to the school's website. "LAS implements an American program with appropriate content, teaching strategies/resources, certified teachers and student assessment practices. Our school offers a number of Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school and our graduates attend some of the finest universities the world has to offer."

MSA, or the Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools, "are affiliated with the United States State Department's Office of Overseas Schools and provide accreditation services to American and international style schools attended by members of the U.S. foreign service and U.S. citizens working for non-government agencies and multi-national corporations," according to the association's website

"I sent my complaint to the American ambassador to inform him about the culture of bullying of students and parents at LAS and the institutionalized racism against locals," Khan's father told JTN. "I also mentioned that those who dared to raise their voices were met with dire consequences. Sadly, the US ambassador refused to take any action, while my letter apparently turned the senior all-white faculty into my son Dawood's enemy."

Because LAS "collected in advance the full fee for the entire year before the start of each academic year ... the best time to take revenge against a troublesome father was in a child's senior year," he continued, "after the school had extracted the final payment from the student and the student was completely at the mercy of the school for appropriate class assignments and college recommendations."

Dawood wasn't allowed to enter school on the first day of his senior year in August 2018 because he hadn't brought reports for medical tests that weren't required or available in Pakistan and which he hadn't been told beforehand he needed, his father explained. This caused him to miss his introductory classes as he wasn't allowed to enter the school for two days. 

Then the school said that Dawood's family "would be forced to hire a very expensive attendant for [him] while he was on campus," his father recounted. Khan's parents agreed to do so, since the alternative was his expulsion from school.

However, then the school said that Khan had to be within five feet of the young woman attendant, according to Mansoor. The school later said that Dawood had to keep his hand on the attendant's shoulder whenever he was "was standing or moving" and that he had to use a white cane while at school, Dawood wrote in his letter. 

LAS also prevented Dawood from taking "the demanding subjects of his liking, in spite of the relevant teachers having approved his course selections," his father wrote. "Dawood was forced to take subjects that he neither liked nor were valued by competitive universities."

"Although I have a disability, I can still function perfectly fine," Dawood wrote in his letter. "I do archery from standard ranges with no extra apparatus. The school never had any problem with me until the administration learned that I could be classified as legally blind. At that moment, all these acts of discrimination were committed in quick succession."

Despite Khan having an exemption from physical education classes due to health issues, "school officials forced him to run on the treadmill, in the sun, in 104 Fahrenheit heat, amid intense humidity," while "wearing dress pants and leather high shoes" and as other students were swimming in the pool, his father wrote. 

School officials had previously been warned by Dawood's father that the boy "suffered from migraines that often afflicted him after being in direct sunlight," Mansoor wrote. Dawood's "attendant vociferously opposed this exercise but was overruled," and it "only stopped after 30 brutal minutes, after Dawood had developed an intense headache and was about to faint. After this session, the attendant insisted that Dawood be allowed to take rest in an air-conditioned room but her reasonable request was denied." 

When Dawood got home, he had "a severe migraine that lasted hours," he said in his letter to an attorney. 

Dawood's father sued LAS to allow his son to attend school without any of the new restrictions placed on him, and the court agreed, as Mansoor tells it. Despite this, Dawood was told by the vice principal that he had to follow the school's restrictions because he was "disabled," or else not graduate. As a result, Dawood stopped attending school less than two weeks into his senior year, according to his father. 

After leaving the school, Dawood attended another school for less than two weeks but was unable to adjust there. Later that year, Khan's mother was diagnosed with cancer and had to receive treatment in both Pakistan and the U.S. Despite knowing this, LAS didn't change its stance, according to Mansoor. 

"After Dawood died, the school did not even send a message of condolence," Mansoor told Just the News in an email. "In fact the school stopped its teachers and staff from visiting us to condole. After Dawood's class graduated in May 2019 many of his friends contacted him for the first time who told Dawood that the school had stopped them from maintaining any contact with him."

In September 2018, Khan's father "sent a formal complaint" via email to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and confirmed with his office that it had been received, he told Just the News. However, he never heard back from the State Department. 

Dawood's parents filed the current lawsuit in November 2022. After the judge had "ordered service of summons on all the defendants," he then "reversed his earlier decision and observed that there were no allegations against" several of the defendants, including the State Department and U.S. ambassador, Mansoor related — despite the fact, he added, that the lawsuit contains allegations against the defendants.

Mansoor Khan's lawyer, Cameron Powell, told Just the News in a statement: "The Lahore American School and its administration should be ashamed of themselves. Their merciless behavior, toward a boy entrusted to their care, shocks the conscience. We can only hope that alumni of the school, and the parents of its students, will see the shame the school has brought upon them and do something about it."

LSA's "maliciousness in attempting to forbid beloved teachers and friends from making harmless contact with a despairing young boy," Powell continued, "would make it all the more likely that a legitimate court would find the school liable — for its mistreatment of him, at the least, and possibly their contribution to his death."

Just the News reached out to the U.S. embassy to Pakistan, Pompeo, and LAS for comment. None responded. 

MSA, the accreditation association, told Just the News that it couldn't "comment on any active legal matters."

The State Department, after asking for another day to respond to a request for comment, declined to comment.