- Last Updated on 02 August 2012
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CHILLICOTHE — The Union-Scioto Board of Education has reached an out-of-court settlement with the Unioto High School student who, after being attacked by another student at school Oct. 17, alleged the district had not done enough to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students from being bullied.
On Thursday, the board approved the settlement agreement with the soon to be sophomore Zach King — formerly known as Zach Huston — and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. The ACLU came to King’s defense in November, with legal director James Hardiman threatening legal action against the district if it was not responsive to a written request to discuss the situation.
The settlement essentially states that the two sides agree to disagree but want the case resolved.
The ACLU alleges Union-Scioto “created and fostered an atmosphere and unofficial policy that permits and encourages harassment, taunting, intimidation and bullying against” students — especially LGBT students. The ACLU contends the unofficial policy resulted in various acts of verbal and physical violence against King.
Union-Scioto denies the ACLU’s charges, stating there was never a policy that formally or informally sanctioned harassment, taunting, intimidation and/or bullying of any of its students. The district also maintains the attack on King was not foreseeable.
“In spite of the disagreement of the parties, the parties now desire to fully and finally resolve this claim as well as any and all other claims or disputes,” the settlement reads.
As part of the agreement, Union-Scioto agrees to pay King and his mother $20,000 in compensation; up to $10,000 in reimbursement for any medical, dental and mental health expenses incurred by King in the 18-month period following the attack; and $5,000 to the ACLU to cover legal fees.
The board also agrees to:
» Develop “acceptable policies to address the alleged intolerant behavior that exists in the school district against LGBT students.”
» Develop and implement a mandatory training program for all administrators, faculty and staff on issues relating to cultural understanding with respect to LGBT persons, bullying and student harassment.
» Develop a “meaningful and effective” complaint policy for harassment and bullying of any student, including LGBT students.
» Maintain data and appropriate documentation for each instance or complaint of harassment based on “actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity,” including the details of corrective action taken by the district to resolve the complaint.
» Send out an open letter indicating that “harassment, taunting or bullying,” and reprisals or retaliation against students who report or witness such actions are subject to school discipline.
Hardiman, who had been in talks with Union-Scioto attorney Rick Ross for the past eight months, said he’s glad the board “saw fit to execute the document.”
“We’re concerned not just for Zach, but for all students,” Hardiman said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed there will be progress toward creating an environment that’s healthy and productive for all students.”
Union-Scioto Superintendent Dwight Garrett said the new policies and training program will be implemented during the upcoming school year. Equality Ohio, the statewide gay rights group that hosted a panel discussion on bullying in Chillicothe in November, will lead the cultural sensitivity training, he said.
What began in a classroom between King and his attacker Oct. 17 flared into national news in the weeks that followed after a video of the attack went viral online. King’s mother, Rebecca Collins, said her son was attacked because he’s gay and that the school had not done enough to protect him.
A storm of controversy ensued as state and national gay rights groups took up the issue, along with almost 90,000 online petitioners — all of them pressing the district to adopt an anti-bullying policy that specifically mentions gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.
The school reportedly gave the attacker a three-day suspension after the incident, but officials later reviewed the discipline in light of the cell phone video that contradicted the initial investigation. Citing privacy of student records, school officials never disclosed the final discipline.
The assailant, having already admitted in juvenile court to a misdemeanor assault charge, was sentenced Nov. 29 to 90 days in juvenile detention. Ohio does not have any provision under the law that would allow an enhancement of the charge or additional charge based on motivation for an attack, so that aspect of the case never was adjudicated.
King finished out his freshman year at Unioto and is expected to return when the new school year starts Aug. 15.
Source Website: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/google/bully/~3/BTN9ulmdzdk/url