CHATSWORTH, GA (WRCB)- David and Tina Long, the parents featured in the documentary "Bully" have responded to a "Request for Bill of Costs" filed against them by Murray County Schools. According to court documents, the school district is requesting the Longs pay more than $9,000 for copies and other materials used in a recent Appeals Court decision that went against the Longs.
Last month, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss a lawsuit from the Chatsworth couple, who say their son Tyler committed suicide in 2009 because he was bullied.
The suit had named Murray County Schools and the principal of Murray County High School as defendants. The lawsuit was dismissed because the Longs couldn't prove that school officials were responsible for the boy's death.
A three-judge panel said the Longs needed to show that school officials were deliberately indifferent to reports that their son, Tyler, was being repeatedly physically and verbally bullied.
The 17-year-old had been diagnosed with a form of autism and hanged himself in October 2009.
The Longs released this statement to WRCB on Thursday:
"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."
CONTACT DAVID CARROLL: firstname.lastname@example.org
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