My blog post tonight is to help bring attention to yet another event that is devastating a family who has already lost their son. For those that don’t have access to my Twitter or Facebook, this is here for you to read. If you read this post and get angry, that is the right response. In my opinion, this family should not be made to pay a school district this amount of $$ considering what as also said by a judge. To Tina and David, you have the support of myself and all those that follow Amanda’s story (in good standing).
Tina and David Long lost their son Tyler to bullying which occurred while he attended school. This family has indeed suffered with their loss as has other parents with similar stories. If you watched the movie ‘Bully’, directed by Lee Hirsch, you will see Tyler’s face smiling at those watching in the opening credits.
This past July, when I was in Las Vegas at the at a conference on bullying, Lee was one of the keynotes. He showed parts of this movie. I wasn’t able to sit past the opening credits. The room was full of professionals who worked with kids and parents who had kids. I was sitting in that room relating to the movie for the wrong horrible reasons. Even though I was sitting in the front row, I had to leave. I found Lee sitting in the foyer making some notes. I apologized for not being able to sit through his movie (although I had seen in 3 other times in different settings) and the rest of his keynote. He understood as he had been through probably the similar emotional conversations with the Long’s and the Smalley’s from the movie.
So now as we read the articles that are flowing through the news feeds, we see this. Parents owe $30,000 to school over lawsuit. I am stunned. Dismayed. Agonized. Horrified that this family has to go through this.
You Tube Video (made by Kevin Epling) – For the Longs
INFORMATION RELEASE BY DAVID AND TINA LONG FROM FILM ‘BULLY’
To: All those that care about our children and their futures…
A parent’s role is to protect their children as best they can. However, parents can’t always be there, and it is the responsibility of our schools to allow all children the opportunity to participate in an educational environment free from bullying, discrimination, and harassment.
Our son Tyler Long was bullied for many years in school and died from peer abuse driven bullycide on October 17, 2009. Tyler was diagnosed with Autism. His story was told in the award winning documentary film ‘Bully’.
Because the school would not share information with us about the environment that Tyler faced on a daily basis, we were forced to take legal action against the school. We ultimately lost our court case at the federal level and our appeal even though the judges at each level were in agreement that:
“There is little question that Tyler was the victim of severe disability harassment, and that the Defendants should have done more to stop the harassment and prevent future incidents.”
Other comments from the federal level judge included:
“The Court finds that Plaintiffs’ evidence is sufficient for a jury to conclude that the harassment of Tyler was sufficiently severe and pervasive that it altered the condition of his education and created an abusive educational environment. First, the evidence shows that Tyler suffered harassment that went well beyond the bounds of “teasing and mere name-calling among school children.” Plaintiffs provide a wealth of evidence establishing that Tyler suffered from severe, nearly constant bullying. Students called Tyler names and pushed him in the hallways nearly “every day,” students harassed Tyler in his Spanish, English, math, and guitar class, and witnesses reported numerous incidents of students picking on Tyler in the bathroom and the cafeteria. In addition, there is evidence of numerous incidents of physical bullying.”
“Under those circumstances, the Court finds that the harassment was severe and pervasive. Plaintiffs provide evidence that the years of harassment ultimately caused Tyler to commit suicide-necessarily barring Tyler from educational opportunities.”
The judges ruled that bullying caused Tyler to commit suicide but:
“The Court cannot find that Defendants’ response to students’ disability harassment of Tyler constitutes deliberate indifference. Although Plaintiffs establish that Defendants should have done more to address disability harassment, Plaintiffs fail to meet the high bar of deliberate indifference and demonstrate that Defendants’ response was clearly unreasonable.”
The Murray County School District, Murray County, GA is now asking the appeals court to make us pay almost $10,000 just because we pursued our right to appeal. They took our son and now they want to financially devastate us.
We believe people need to know that we must do more to protect our children from bullying and other severe harassment in school. We believe laws need to be updated to protect our children. We believe schools need to be better equipped to proactively protect our children and maintain a safer learning environment for all children. Tyler’s school knew the bullying was occurring and knew their response efforts were not working. The lack of response and follow-up led to Tyler’s suicide. We must help schools implement more effective procedures for intervention and response!
We must come together as human beings and demand better. Now is the time to take a stand and make a change. We believe more innovative solutions (such as the award-winning prevention platform calledTIPS – www.TIPSprevent.com) that have been proven in other schools and colleges must be implemented immediately to combat this epidemic.
Will you join us to do more and help ensure no other children or their families have to endure what we have experienced? We must come together as a society to demand better.
We cannot continue with status quo approaches while children continue to take their own lives. We vow that Tyler’s voice will never fall silent.
David and Tina Long from documentary film ‘Bully’
Attorney for David and Tina Long:
W. Winston Briggs Law Firm/Zimring Law Firm
Laurie Webb Daniel | Holland & Knight