Fifteen-year-old Billy Lucas was one of several teens who committed suicide in 2010, sparking a new awareness for how young people are mistreated in school for their sexual orientation and gender identity, real or perceived. Now, upon this two-year anniversary of his death, his family is suing Greensburg Community Junior High School for not protecting him from bullying, and possibly even contributing to his harassment.
The suit points out that Lucas suffered from emotional and learning disabilities, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He was also picked on because of his mixed ethnicity and the perception that he was gay because his appearance and behavior “did not conform to traditional male stereotypes.” As a result, he “was subjected to relentless harassment, ridicule, and bullying” that at times included “physical pushing, hitting, and kicking.” Principal Rodney King and Assistant Principal David Strouse are directly implicated for the bullying,a s are school employees Iris Ramp and Darci Kovacich:
King and Strouse had actual knowledge that W.L. was being harassed but turned a blind eye to the harassment. At one point King told W.L., “If someone beat you up, I wouldn’t know whether to give him an award or suspend him.”[…]
Ramp and Kovacich witnessed students harassing and bullying W.L. on multiple occasions yet did nothing to prevent or stop it. In fact, Ramp and Kovacich not only ignored the harassment of W.L. by other students at the School, but in some cases encouraged and even actively participated in the harassment of W.L. themselves. Ramp and Kovacich verbally insulted, ridiculed, and abused W.L. in front of his peers on multiple occasions.
The Departments of Education and Justice have made strides in setting new standards for protecting students from bullying — including those perceived to be LGBT. In a very similar case in California, the DOJ found that the Tehachapi School District did not properly intervene to protect Seth Walsh from harassment, and he similarly committed suicide. The DOJ also found that Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District, where several students committed suicide over a short span of time, was negligent in monitoring bullying, often making things worse for the LGBT students who were suffering. It may be too late to help some young people like Lucas and Walsh, but addressing the problems of the past will save future students from experiencing the same traumatic treatment.