The tragic story of Imani Bell, the teen who died after an outdoor high school basketball practice in August 2019, reached a new turn with a $10 million settlement with the Clayton County Public Schools in suburban Atlanta. The family announced the news on Tuesday. The settlement resulted from a civil case the family filed last year.
How Did Imani Bell Die?
At the time of her death, Bell was a junior at Elite Scholars Academy in Clayton County, Georgia, and a member of the school’s varsity basketball team. During a team-mandated outdoor practice, the 16-year-old collapsed after running drills up the football stadium steps. The temperature during practice was between 96 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit, with a heat index between 101 and 106.
“We’d trade everything to have her back here with us,” Imani’s father, Eric Bell, said to CBS News last year. “Gut-wrenching. Heartbreaking. How could this happen? The body was so hot that it went right back into cardiac arrest,” Eric Bell said. “I was actually in the room, and you know, that’s not a memory I’ll ever forget.”
“IMANI WAS THE CLASSIC BIG SISTER” 16-year-old Imani Bell was the oldest of 6 siblings, a 4.0 student & a volunteer. She collapsed while practicing w her basketball team at the Elite Scholars Academy Tuesday, went into cardiac arrest & passed away. It was nearly 100 degrees out. pic.twitter.com/J91rfDr53t
— Alexa Liacko (@AlexaLiacko) August 15, 2019
Imani Bell’s Father Believes Her Basketball Coaches Were Negligent
Bell’s father, who is also a coach, believes the coaches were negligent and that someone needed to be held accountable. As a coach, he would never send his students into the scalding heat that led to his daughter’s death.
An autopsy performed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in 2019 revealed that Bell suffered from hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis. The primary cause of her death was the result of a heart attack brought on by physical exertion in a high-heat environment. Additionally, Imani did not have any underlying health issues contributing to her death.
Basketball Coaches Get Murder Charges In Imani Bell Death
In July 2021, the two basketball coaches, Larosa Maria Walker-Asekere and Dwight Broom Palmer, were indicted by a grand jury and charged with second-degree murder, second-degree child cruelty, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless conduct. The two have been released on bond and are awaiting trial.
Happening Now: A dedication ceremony of the Imani Bell Gymnasium at Elite Scholars Academy. The renaming part of a $10 million settlement her parents reached with Clayton Co School District. The 16yo died of heatstroke in 2019 after a team-mandated bb practice. @ATLNewsFirst pic.twitter.com/p0UqltyYgO
— Zac Summers (@ZacOnTV) November 29, 2022
Now Bell’s family and attorneys praised Clayton County Public Schools for doing what they felt was the right thing with the record settlement.
“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,” family attorney L. Chris Stewart said to CBS News. “We salute Clayton County for sending that message nationwide.”
Had the pleasure of meeting Coach Bell father of Imani Bell while in Decatur Ga. at Columbia High School today. I just wanted to embrace and support his family during this time. I spoke to his girls basketball team about My Mind My Body , Player Safety 101 #100percentpreventable pic.twitter.com/wcVX59wQAJ
— The Jordan McNair Foundation (@JMFoundation_) October 9, 2019
Bell’s Family Launch Keep Imani Foundation
Bell’s family started the Keep Imani Foundation last year to honor her memory. The foundation will be funded partly by the settlement’s proceeds and will provide scholarships to deserving students. In addition, on Tuesday, the Elite Sports Academy gymnasium will also be renamed in Imani’s honor.
“The assistant coach saw Imani struggling and how hot it was and did not stop the practice,” family attorney Justin Miller said last August to WSB TV. “This is only the second time in history a coach has been charged in this way and the first time a coach has ever been charged with murder. She was taking college classes in high school, so she had enough credits. She probably would have been a sophomore on her first day of college,” he said.