In Dalton, Georgia, the parents of a junior who was enrolled in Murray County High School are suing the school system claiming that the school’s inability to protect the child from bullying lead to the child committing suicide. The child committed suicide on Oct 17, 2009. They have filed the suit in federal court this week.
Also named in the lawsuit is the principal of the school, Gina Linder, whom the parents believe did not do enough to protect Tyler Long, who died after what his parents call a “particularly painful week of bullying at the high school.” Long had Asperger’s syndrome, which is a type of social anxiety disorder within the area of autism. The parents believe that the school’s inability to protect the child was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Vocational Rehabilitation Act.
According to Stan Hawkins, who represents the school district, the case has no merit. In a statement, he states that the school system is not responsible for the child taking his life. Hawkins is one of several attorneys working on behalf of the school system.
A statement released from the parent’s law firm, W. Winston Briggs Law Firm states, in part that the school’s administrators and employees “exhibited deliberate indifference” towards protecting the child. The statement says that the school and principal knew of the child’s disability and did not do anything to protect the child from the bullying. The law firm also states that the principal knew of the bullying. The parents filed the suit in an effort to hold someone accountable for their child’s death and to ensure it does not happen to someone else.
Although the case has been filed in federal court, there is likely to be a significant discovery period prior to the case going to trial. The school system has 20 days to respond to the allegations. The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages, including payment for court costs and attorney fees.
If you are a California school administrator with a question about student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, feel free to call Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district issue.