After Son Is Assaulted and Tattooed, Parents Sue School District
The parents of a New Hampshire teenager who was assaulted and forcibly tattooed on the buttocks by four older students during school hours at Concord High School have sued their school district.
Michael and Tammy Austin are seeking unspecified damages from the district in Concord, New Hampshire, which they say failed to provide a safe environment for their son and to protect him from bullying in the incident, which happened in May 2010, when their son was 14.
In a similar case, a New Jersey school district was recently forced to pay $4.2 million to settle a lawsuit by a middle school student who was paralyzed when a known bully punched him in the abdomen. After the settlement was reached, the Ramsey Board of Education released a statement denying any wrongdoing, but saying that the districtís insurance carriers agreed to the settlement and would pay it out.
Photos Circulated On Cell Phones And On Facebook
In the Concord incident, a group of older students lured the boy to a house near the school, where they tattooed a picture of a penis and the words ‘Poop Dick’ on his buttocks, according to the lawsuit filed in Merrimack County Superior Court.
“We believe they had a duty to protect, and they failed in that task,” Stephen Duggan, an attorney for the parents, said in an interview this week.
“The end result is he was physically assaulted with this horrendous tattoo. While modern medicine will allow it to be removed to some degree, the emotional scars will live on.”
The victim, who had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, suffered further emotional distress after other students took pictures of the tattoo and circulated them on cell phones. He was also subject to bullying on Facebook after the incident, the complaint said.
The school exacerbated the situation by calling an assembly on bullying on the victim’s first day back at school after the incident, it said. Following the assembly, he was further harassed and bullied, the complaint said.
The suit said school officials failed to fulfill a promise to provide chaperones for the boy, who had a history of skipping classes, to make sure he got from one class to the next.
A trial is scheduled for October, with school officials to be deposed in July. The lawsuit was filed in July 2011 but just started to receive media attention this week.
Meanwhile, the school district has responded that it acted properly and that the students who participated in the tattooing were at fault. It has even stated that it took all appropriate actions before and after the incident. Really? What actions did they take? Whatever they were, they obviously made no difference to anyone.
Donald Wyman, then 21, Blake Vannest, then 19, and two minors bullied the Austin’s son for months prior to the incident, calling him insulting names, the complaint said. In 2010 they all pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from the tattoo incident and were sentenced to serve between three days and six months in jail.
It is good that justice has been served in this way, but the school still needs to admit that it was at fault.
Schools Legally Responsible For The Youngsters In Their Charge
“In loco parentis” means that schools are responsible for a student while that child is in the care and under the supervision of the school. What this means for teachers is that we are responsible for those children while their parents hand them over to us; I have always been told that if anything happens to my students while they are officially in my care, then I will be held responsible.
Schools must also assume responsibility for children on their way to and from school if the school district is in charge of the mode of transportation, and schools are legally required to deal with bullying that occurs on school property, during school hours.
In the Concord situation, school officials failed to protect the Austin child from bullying while he was legally under their care, and so they must be held accountable. They are at fault, and they need to admit that.
Take Action Now!
If you agree, please sign our petition demanding that the Concord School District take full responsibility for the bullying inflicted upon the son of Michael and Tammy Austin while he was in the care of Concord High School.
Photo Credit: Zero Tolerance Shirts