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Clayton County schools, family of Imani Bell reach $10 million settlement, rename school gym in her honor

By Heather Middleton

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    JONESBORO, Georgia (Clayton News Daily) — When Imani Bell’s sibling steps onto the basketball court at Elite Scholars Academy in January, she will do so in a gym bearing her sister’s name.

The renaming of the gym on Nov. 29 was part of the $10 million settlement with the Clayton County school system in a lawsuit filed in the 2019 death of Imani Bell.

Imani, then age 16, died of heat stroke during an outside basketball practice on one of the hottest days of the year. The temperature was approximately 99 degrees with a heat index of 101-103 degrees.

Imani’s father, Eric Bell, said his daughter embodies an elite scholar. He said the renaming is “a big way to have her name live on forever.

“She is an elite scholar, she always will be an elite scholar and student athlete.”

In a statement from the Clayton County schools, district officials said they are “pleased we were able to reach the best possible resolution of this tragic case involving the passing of Imani Bell. We have lost a wonderful student.”

Referring to the renaming ceremony, the school system said “the attention this afternoon is rightfully on her legacy. The school district stands with the community in its commitment to the education and safety of its students.”

Creating a legacy

During a press conference on Nov. 29, Dorian and Eric Bell said they plan to use part of the settlement money to establish the Keep Imani Foundation.

“The foundation gives us the opportunity to honor her and help others,” Imani’s mother Dorian Bell said. “I am very excited and overjoyed for what we could do to not only to keep Imani alive, but to help others.”

The nonprofit’s goals include setting up a scholarship, providing glasses and cold tubs for students as well as partnering with school districts to ensure teachers and coaches are educated about heat exhaustion.

Family attorney Justin Miller called the day happy, but also bittersweet. He said the renaming of the gym will establish Imani’s legacy since she’s not here to build her own. He added the settlement will hopefully prevent other families from losing a child in such a manner.

Fellow attorney Chris Stewart said the day was historic and a “big victory for every parent that has a student athlete. Coaches now know they will be held accountable.”

Praise for school system

Both lawyers and the Bell family praised the school system for settling rather than dragging out the process in the courts.

“This is a very rare situation, especially for this historic amount,” Stewart said. “This does not happen often. The amount they paid showed even though they couldn’t bring her back they cared about the children in the district.”

Miller said the district was to be applauded for how they handled the situation.

“Every school system in the nation needs to look at this school system as a blue print to how to handle this type of situation after it happens,” he said.

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