U.S. judge: school system not liable for bullied teen’s suicide
5:40 pm, May 21st, 2012
In a case involving school bullying that is being watched nationwide, a federal judge in Rome has determined that a 17-year-old who hanged himself in 2009 likely was subjected to severe and pervasive bullying throughout his high school career but that the school system had responded effectively every time school administrators were alerted that the teen had been bullied.
In an order handed down Monday, U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy granted summary judgment to the Murphy County School System, finding that school administrators had not demonstrated deliberate indifference to the plight of 17-year-old Tyler Long and had not violated his civil rights by failing to shield him from school bullies.
Tyler’s parents, Tina and David Long, sued the school system and Murray County High School’s principal in 2010, claiming that the school system was liable for their son’s Oct. 17, 2009 suicide because he was bullied to death.
School district attorneys had countered that Tyler’s psychiatric records, multiple mental health issues and a suicide note
that referred to his personal anguish over his relationship with his parents – not bullying – drove Tyler to suicide.
In his order, Murphy did not rule on the ultimate cause of Tyler’s suicide. Instead, citing multiple rulings by the U.S. Eleventh
Circuit Court of Appeals, the judge found that the school district did not have a constitutional duty to protect Tyler from harm by private individuals – primarily other students who allegedly bullied him – even though Tyler’s harassment was “sufficiently severe and pervasive” that it created “an abusive educational environment.”