Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Bullying Suicide Close to Home

I'm not sure how I missed this story other than the fact that during the week after Christian Taylor's suicide the boyfriend and I were in Ft. Lauderdale and then Key West and as a result I did not see the initial stories. Fortunately, blogger friend Mike Rogers shared a link to a follow up story in the Washington Post to those that had run in the Daily Press earlier in the year. While Christian Taylor (pictured at left) was not gay, the pattern is all to familiar: (1) those who are deemed different are tormented and (2) indifferent school administrators and indifferent law enforcement officials who do nothing to protect the victims of bullying. First a little background on York County, Virginia, where Grafton High School is located: York County (located about 20 minutes from Hampton) is VERY Republican and is pretty much mutually exclusive with the word progressive. When one of my sisters liver there in 2006 and had yard signs up in opposition to passage of Virginia's anti-gay marriage amendment, she worried that the sign and/or her home might be vandalized. True to form, the haters of all things different tend to be the "godly Christian" and uber-patriot set. Here are highlights from the Washington Post story:
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The birthday boy is dead. He killed himself five months before the party. Christian Taylor's friends and family say he was bullied to death, harassed daily until he would rather die than go to school another day. The grim birthday party was the best way they could find to deal with the horrible way they lost him.
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"I'm all cried out," Ariel Mullins, 13, told me, after she and others released balloons into the sky at 5:58 p.m. on Nov. 5, the moment when Christian was born 17 years ago.
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For those left behind, a world of could-haves and should-haves. "That was one of the signs I really missed. He said he didn't want to go to school, and I kept telling him he needed to go to school," said his mother, Alisa Williams, who has filed a $10 million lawsuit against Grafton High School officials. The suit alleges that they failed to protect Christian from his tormentors.
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Taylor's mother has done the right thing in suing school administrators (I suspect that the school system was not a named defendant because typically in Virginia public school divisions invoke the defense of sovereign immunity, leaving the aggrieved plaintiff only able to sue individual employees of the school division). I also agree with Taylor's mother that their need to be statutes imposing liability on both those who bully and their parents. If individuals and school officials will not stop severe bullying for the right reasons, then I'll settle for good behavior motivated solely out of fear of crippling financial liability. For more background, here are a few highlights from previous Daily Press stories. First, the June 3, 2010 Daily Press:
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Christian Taylor, a freshman at Grafton High School, committed suicide Monday and his mother said he had been bullied at school ever since the family moved here in January. "All I remember is looking into my son's eyes, because he had the most beautiful blue eyes, and he was staring and he was cold," said Alise Williams.
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She said Taylor, 16, hung himself at the family home Monday. The military family had moved to York County from Fort Hood, Texas, in December and Taylor's step-father is currently deployed to South Korea with the Army.
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"He didn't want to get in trouble because my thing is don't fight, take it out and tell an adult so it can be handled on a different level," Williams said. "That happened on a Monday, then on Tuesday this kid said to my son you need to just go commit suicide and get it over with. Not only that, but said something to my son's girlfriend, who had her head down on the table at lunch. I don't know how my mood was, but he told her to just go slit her wrists and die.
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A second June 3, 2010 Daily Press story:
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Williams said she contacted the York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office about filing charges against the student, but officials refused to take her report. Alise Williams said she contacted officials from the York County School Division and York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office about her son's harassment by another student, but she didn't feel school officials did enough to alleviate the situation.
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"They didn't do anything," Alise Williams said. "I had five meetings. I asked them if I needed to pull my son out of school to keep him safe, and they assured me that he would be safe."
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And then a later Daily Press stry after a local court rejected the defendant school officials' attempt to have the law suit dismissed:
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A civil lawsuit against four York County School Division employees alleging negligence for not protecting a student from bullying will proceed, but a school security officer was dismissed as a defendant Thursday.
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Alise Williams of York County filed a $10 million wrongful death suit against a Grafton High School principal, two assistant principals, a counselor and school resource officer. Williams claims that the officials failed to protect her son, Christian Taylor, from bullying at school and that it contributed to the teenager committing suicide on May 31.
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Substitute Judge R. Bruce Long heard a demurrer — essentially a motion to dismiss the case — in York-Poquoson Circuit Court Thursday. It was the first court date for the suit, which Williams filed July 30.

3 comments:

Lisa said...

Hey this is Christians Mom please feel free to call me at 757-234-6067 and thank you for your support on this, Ive been put down so much its pissing me off...

Christian Taylors Mom said...

Thank you for calling and I hope we can work to get this law passed, since talking to you you are the first person that I felt truly wanted to help, after all if we dont fight for our kids WHO WILL?? all my kids have been my life, Christian was truly talented at everything and anything he did, and he was repetitive about doing it until it was right and successfully completed, when I didnt think he was listening he really was and I was very proud of my sweet son who had a smile for anyone and concerned when he saw a frown, and to take that away from this world was so very wrong and to take him away from his younger siblings was even worse, try telling a 9 year old why his brother died when he had seen him that morning or explaining to his 10 yr old sister why after he told her he loved her that day.
I am looking forward to this mission maybe its part of my life and while I miss Christian with my entire being I can NOT do NOTHING!
Thank you Mike for reconizing the problem.....

Christian Taylors Mom said...

In February of 2013 VA HB 1871 Passed in a landslide vote 93 to 6 with one delegate who stated he meant to vote against it,but it wouldnt have mattered any way. I was signed into law in July before the 2013-2014 school year and Gloucester High had a young teen who took her life because of bullying Gloucester High School has done nothing to this date..