Archive for Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Tonganoxie school district decides to appeal bullying lawsuit

November 2, 2005

The Tonganoxie school district will appeal a $250,000 jury award to a former student who was harassed by other students.

Last week, the district's attorneys filed notice that they would appeal the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The suit hinges on Dylan Theno's claim he was harassed for several years by other Tonganoxie students. Theno also said he quit school at the start of his junior year because of that harassment by male students. A U.S. District Court jury in August awarded Theno $250,000 at the conclusion of a trial in Kansas City, Kan.

"It was always a foregone conclusion that we were going to appeal it," Steve Pigg, one of the district's attorneys, said Tuesday.

The federal appeals process will take several months before attorneys argue the case in front of a three-judge panel. Pigg said it could be up to 12 months before oral arguments are heard.

Last month, U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum rejected the school district's request to overturn the jury's award to Theno -- which set the stage for the appeal.

In his lawsuit, which was filed in May 2004, Theno alleged he was called names such as "fag," "faggot," "queer," "flamer" and "masturbator" from his seventh-grade year until he quit school as a junior. The suit also said the harassment denied Theno access to an education.

In his ruling, Lungstrum said, "The record reflects that a sufficiently significant number of school administrators essentially turned a blind eye to the harassment by ignoring, tolerating or trivializing the harassment. Plaintiff and his parents were at times treated dismissively by some of the school administrators."

Lungstrum also stated that the students who harassed Theno were not "meaningfully disciplined."

The $250,000 jury award continues to collect interest -- at a rate of 3.84 percent -- until the case is resolved.

In addition, Theno is seeking attorneys' fees from the district, totaling $253,400. Lungstrum has not yet ruled on that request.

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