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15-Year-Old Bullying Suicide Victim’s Family Sues School

15-Year-Old Bullying Suicide Victim’s Family Sues School

 

Just over two years ago, 15-year-old Billy Lucas took his own life after a sustained campaign of bullying at school related to his perceived sexual orientation, among other personal characteristics. Now, the Indiana teenager’s family is suing Lucas’ former school Greensburg Community Junior High, alleging that the school may have directly contributed to Lucas’ anguish.

Reports Fox 59 (emphasis added):

“To the extent the school let him be subjected to this kind of torment is inexcusable. The school violated the law by not taking steps to protect him,” said Tom Blessing of Frazier Law Firm, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lucas’ family.

[...]

According to the filing, “(Principal Rodney) King and (Assistant Principal David) Strouse had actual knowledge that W.L. (Lucas) was being harassed, but turned a blind eye to the harassment.”

The document continued, “At one point (Rodney) King told W.L. (Lucas), ‘If someone beat you up, I wouldn’t know whether to give him an award or suspend him.’”

Blessing believes the people named in the lawsuit may have contributed to Lucas’ torment at school.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Indianapolis Attorney Tom Blessing claims Lucas was a target for bullying because of several personal characteristics including his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), his ethnicity and his perceived sexual orientation. The suit directly implicates Greensburg Community Junior High School’s Principal Rodney King, Assistant Principal David Strouse and school employees Iris Ramp and Darci Kovacich.

The suit alleges that Ramp and Kovacich saw on “multiple occasions” Billy Lucas being harassed by other students but says they “did nothing” to intervene. Not only this, but the suit goes on to allege there is evidence that Ramp and Kovacich even “actively participated in the harassment of W.L. (Lucas) themselves,” saying that Ramp and Kovacich “verbally insulted, ridiculed and abused” Lucas in front of his peers.

Lucas was found hanging in a family barn in September 2010 and was one of several young people who took their own lives in a spate of suicides that garnered international attention that would eventually prompt the It Gets Better project.

While Lucas made no mention of bullying in his suicide note, several of his peers came forward to say that Billy suffered a sustained campaign of bullying, particularly around the fact that he was perceived to be gay even though he had never identified as such.

Reported Eyewitness News at the time:

“He was threatened to get beat up every day,” friend and classmate Nick Hughes said. “Sometimes in classes, kids would act like they were going to punch him and stuff and push him.”

[...]

Friends of Lucas say that he had been tormented for years.

“Some people at school called him names,” Hughes said, saying most of those names questioned Lucas’ sexual orientation, and that Lucas, for the most part, did little to defend himself.

“He would try to but people would just try to break him down with words and stuff and just pick on him,” Hughes said.

Ann Lucas, Billy’s mother, has said that Lucas had told her about the bullying just days before his suicide:  ”He told me ‘Mom, you don’t know what it’s like to walk down the halls of school and be afraid of who’s going to hit you, who’s going to kick you.’”

At the time of the incident, the school said it was taking steps to ensure that all bullying-related problems were being dealt with properly. However, questions were raised at the time whether the school had done enough to combat bullying with several other students coming forward and saying they had been victims of mistreatment at the hands of their peers.

This is something the federal suit filed by Lucas’ family also alleges, saying that students have been given a green-light to continue to bully because the administration has refused to step in.

At the time of writing, Greensburg Community Junior High School’s attorneys have not yet issued a response.

It would be improper to comment on the particulars of this case without the response of the school in question, however, it can be said that should this lawsuit proceed, it has the potential to be set alongside a number of recent high-profiled bullying related lawsuits, including the Seth Walsh case and the Annoka Hennepin lawsuit that saw the Minnesota school district the subject of local and federal investigation over its “neutrality” policy on sexual orientation that, students alleged, allowed anti-gay bullying to become pervasive, and LGBT rights groups said was costing lives.

 

Related Reading:

Ohio School Settles Anti-Gay Attack Case

Campaign to Overturn California’s LGBT Education Law Fails

Bullied 14-Year-Old Blinded in One Eye During Anti-Gay Attack

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Cesar Augusto Serna Sz

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109 comments

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3:56PM PDT on Oct 28, 2012

Bullying is despicable and should NOT be tolerated. I have No use for the inactive schools and less for the parents of the brats who do the bullying.

If a child is proven to be a bully, I would love to see the Stocks reinstated. put the little bastard(s) in a modern form of Stock and let the rest of the kids pitch rotten eggs and fruit at them.

I do not give a plugged nickel for the view that feels we should find out WHY a kid is a bully. Let's show them right off the bat that bullying is NOT a way to call for help. then, we can delve into what caused it. but first - show the perps that this behaviour will net them serious punishment.

9:13AM PDT on Oct 27, 2012

Perhaps all the adults commenting on this story will remember that these are teenagers who are aware of the hateful politics being blasted on news reports, ads on TV, and the written articles in newspapers and magazine: being gay is WRONG, getting females drunk (of ANY age) and then having sex with them is the female's fault, women who are raped, or young girls who are incested, and become pregnant can't have an abortion because it's God's Will that they are pregnant. Boys are ridiculed and accused of being gay if they are not willing to be aggresive, and on and on - ad naseum. It is the ADULTS of this country who have started this negative campaign against any one who does not think the same as they do about anything! And it's not NEW - it's been going on for centuries - now with the news media we ALL are aware of it - is it bad enough to you yet? When we will stop being prejudice against any one, or any belief system (religious or political), that is different than our own? Bullies learn this from adults - they are not BORN that way. WAKE UP and notice YOUR children are learning this behavior from YOUR ACTIONS AND WORDS! We ALL are responsible for this situtation - not just parents - ALL ADULTS!

9:01AM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

schools and parents NEED TO BE AWARE. its ridiculous what is allowed to go on

5:30PM PDT on Sep 23, 2012

Another horror story from public education. Another child who was destroyed by kids his age.

9:11PM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

Here we have a very sad article about a boy being bullied and no one doing anything about it. It's nice to see the comments supporting the family.
Another article on this site is about "spanking" being allowed in schools, & it's disgusting how many people support it. It's a form of bullying.
Parents have tried to get schools to stop bullying, but the school officials are afraid someone will sue them for "repressing" their children. Maybe if enough parents of children who have suffered bullying sue the schools, it will make a difference.
Billy and all the other victims of bullying--there are people here who care for you. Look for us and you'll find supportive, caring people who are willing to help you. We are looking for you & want to help.

3:34PM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

I hope the family wins and that the bullies are held responsible, too. Unfortunately, this will not bring back this poor child. We ALL need to get a handle on this problem NOW before we lose another child to bullying.

2:13PM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

If I were the parents of this young boy I would be suing not only the school but the principal for EVERY dime he was worth and getting his license yanked out from underneath him; making DAMN sure he is NOT allowed to teach or preside over another body of students ANYWHERE! How dare someone in a power of authority over children tell a CHILD ‘If someone beat you up, I wouldn’t know whether to give him an award or suspend him.’” That is beyond unacceptable and it sure as hell is INEXCUSABLE! Oh this makes me furious! Let someone tell my child that! They won't have a roof on their school anymore because I will blow it off!

3:01AM PDT on Sep 19, 2012

I hope the family takes the school to the cleaners!!
This does not let the "children" off the hook--maybe they aren't being sued, but I sincerely hope, everyday of their lives is spent knowing they were the cause of a child's hopeless misery, a misery so bad that he ended his life!
And yes, Janne is right--after the school is sued as a unit, the guilty school staff needs to be sued individually.

1:24PM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

How sad for the boy. The parents have my condolences. The school staff that permitted this and contributed it should also be sued as individuals.

6:13AM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

If I were that boy's dad, I would have gone to the school as soon as I knew bullying had started, and I would have had a meeting with the teachers involved and the assistant principal. I would let them know that in no uncertain terms that I expect and demand that they protect my child from bullying. If the bullying did not stop, then I would take it to the principal. If I still did not see a change, then I would get the names of the kids harassing my child and call the police on them and get them involved. This is because this constitutes harassment and probably sexual harassment. I would also go to the school for a day and sit in the classroom, if my child would be ok with it, just to see what goes down. If I have to take it further, I would sue the school district. BUT, I would NOT WAIT until my child starts having suicidal ideations to act. Having been severely bullied myself in school, this is a sore point with me, even 30+ years after the fact, and I would NOT tolerate my child being bullied, no matter what the reason. Constant bullying is debillitating to any child's self-esteem and academic performance and more, so I would take steps immediately to stop it. Maybe this boy's parents did all that, I dont know. All Im saying is that I would be very proactive in stopping this.

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