Parents of student who killed himself owe $30,000 to Georgia school district over lawsuit

Parents of student who killed himself owe $30,000 to Georgia school district over lawsuit

July 24th, 2013 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Tina and David Long visit their son, Tyler's, grave. Tyler was a victim of constant bullying at Murray County High School.

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Tyler Long

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Four years after a Murray County, Ga., High School student killed himself amid constant bullying, the boy's parents owe the school district $30,000.

David and Tina Long, whose 17-year-old son Tyler committed suicide in 2009, said they don't know what they're going to do.

Tina is a nurse, and David manages a carpet mill. Their 18-year-old twins start college in the fall.

"I don't have $30,000 to give to the school system," David Long said. "What this does is send signals to other parents. 'Do not attempt to go after a school system' -- that's what they're trying to say -- 'or we'll go after you. ... We'll do whatever we want to, to whoever we want to, however we want to.' They already took my son, and now they continue to do this. I think it's a shot across the bow for the next one who tries to do this."

Murray County Superintendent Vickie Reed did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

But Matthew Moffett, an attorney representing an insurer for the school district, pointed out in an email that these costs were approved by a federal judge.

"At this time, plaintiffs [the Longs] have not paid these costs, as required by the court's order," Moffett said, "and the school system has not attempted further collection."

The Longs filed a lawsuit against Murray County Schools in 2010, arguing that officials did nothing to stop students from bullying their son in the hallways and on the bus. In May 2012, the U.S. District Court ruled against the Longs. Then, on June 18, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling.

On July 2, Murray County Schools filed a bill of cost in the Court of Appeals for about $9,000 to cover the cost of the case. About $8,000 of that is for records -- 3,798 records, copied 10 times each.

This comes after the school district filed another bill of cost in the District Court for the original case. In that case, the Longs must pay $21,000, mostly to cover the cost of transcribing and copying depositions.

The Longs' case gained national attention and was featured in "Bully," a documentary.

In October 2009, 17-year-old Tyler Long hanged himself, and his parents blamed the school district. They said their son had Asperger's syndrome, a developmental disorder, and that some of his peers began bullying him in middle school.

In addition to the documentary, "20/20" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" have spotlighted the Long's case.

The District Court ruled that the Longs did not prove that school officials acted in a "clearly unreasonable" manner. In fact, the courts found that school leaders consistently responded to reports of bullying.

However, the judges added, school officials should have done more to address the harassment.

"Now they want us to pay them?" Tina Long asked Tuesday. "The federal judge even said he was subject to severe and constant bullying. And they want us to pay [the school district]. We've already lost our child at the hands of what happened to him inside those walls. ... Not only Tyler got it, but now they're doing it to us."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.