ROME, GA. (WRCB) - A federal judge in Rome, Georgia has issued a decision in favor of Murray County Schools after the district was accused of deliberate indifference in the case of a high school junior who committed suicide. The case had been filed by David and Tina Long of Chatsworth, the parents of Tyler Long. The 17-year-old hanged himself in his bedroom in October 2009.
The Longs had maintained that Tyler had been bullied in Murray County schools for years, while school administrators ignored their pleas for help. Murray County officials countered with arguments that they had responded to the Longs' complaints, and said their investigation showed no proof that Tyler's school relationships caused his suicide.
According to his parents, Tyler Long had Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism that caused him to have "awkward social skills." They say he would laugh or joke at inappropriate times, and would often be the subject of bullying by his classmates.
Although the judge agreed that Tyler Long was a victim of bullying, he said that Murray County Schools could not be held responsible for the teen's death. In his 186-page ruling, he concluded, "Even viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the Court cannot find that Defendants' response was clearly unreasonable, caused additional harassment, or demonstrates an official decision by Defendants not to remedy disability harassment. Under those circumstances, the Court finds that Defendants' actions do not rise to the level of deliberate indifference."
He said the evidence indicated Murray County Schools addressed the incidents in which the Longs reported Tyler was harassed, and attempted to prevent future incidents. But he said that the school district's prevention techniques were not always effective.
Tina Long told Eyewitness News, "We're in shock. The judge seemed to agree with us, but has dismissed the case."
The Longs are featured in the documentary film "Bully," which features footage of a town meeting hosted by WRCB in Chatsworth in 2009. The film also traces bullying incidents involving other families from around the United States. "Bully" opened in theaters last month, and has been shown in several schools.
Some information used in this story is from the daily report blog ATLaw and the ABA Journal.
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