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The family of Indiana teen Billy Lucas, whose suicide in 2010 inspired the "It Gets Better" project, has filed suit in federal court against the school district that failed to protect him. Indeed, the district's employees may have encouraged the bullying that led to the teen's suicide.
On September 9, 2010, Billy (William) Lucas, a 15-year-old from Greensburg, Indiana, was found dead in a barn at his grandmother's home. He had hanged himself just hours after fellow students told him he did not deserve to live.
Lucas's death was the first widely reported teen suicide in September of 2010. Within weeks almost a dozen others were reported. The spate of suicides sparked a national conversation about bullying.
News of Billy Lucas's death also inspired Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller to launch the "It Gets Better" YouTube project. Since its launch more than 30,000 user-created videos have been uploaded. Most of the videos recount the personal experiences of glbtq people who were bullied as teenagers and managed to survive and even thrive, but prominent straight allies, including President Obama and the First Lady, have also contributed to the project in an effort to encourage young people.
Just days before the second anniversary of Lucas's death, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Greensburg School Corporation and four of its employees: former Greensburg Principal Rodney King and Assistant Principal David Strouse, along with teachers Iris Ramp and Darci Kovacich.
The lawsuit alleges that "Because of [the] perception of his sexual orientation, W.L. (Billy Lucas) was subjected to relentless harassment, ridicule and bullying at the school (and other schools in the district) during school hours over a period of several years."
According to the suit, "Ramp and Kovacich witnessed students harassing and bullying W.L. (Lucas) on multiple occasions yet did nothing to prevent or stop it. In fact, Ramp and Kovacich not only ignored the harassment of W.L. (Lucas) by other students at the School, but in some cases encouraged and even actively participated in the harassment of W.L. (Lucas) themselves."
"Ramp and Kovacich verbally insulted, ridiculed and abused W.L. (Billy) in front of his peers on multiple occasions," the filing alleges. "On at least one occasion, Kovacich confined W.L. to a 'work room' (closet) for what she considered punishment for alleged misbehavior. These and other affirmative acts by Ramp and Kovacich created or increased the risk of harm to W.L."
The suit alleges that King and Strouse had actual knowledge that Lucas was being harassed, but turned a blind eye to the harassment and even abetted it. At one point, King allegedly told Lucas, "If someone were to beat you up, I wouldn't know whether to give him an award or suspend him."
According to LGBTQ Nation, Tom Blessing of the Indianapolis-based Frazier Law Firm, which filed the suit on behalf of Lucas's family, said that "The school violated the law by not taking steps to protect him."
Thanks to Zack Ford of Think Progress, the court filing may be found here.
It seems to me that, if the allegations contained in this lawsuit are true, the employees of the school district should also face criminal as well as civil sanctions. They certainly should be fired and not allowed to work with young people in the future.
The cruelty to which Billy Lucas was subjected is both shocking and heartbreaking.
In the clip below, Ann Lucas, Billy's mother, speaks of her son and his ordeal.