Yesterday Circuit Court Judge R. Bruce Long dismissed a lawsuit against administrators at Grafton High School in Yorktown who failed to intervene and stop the incessant bullying of Christian Taylor (pictured at left) who eventually committed suicide on May 31, 2010. Despite repeated complaints to school officials, the bully in this instance was never suspended and no meaningful steps were taken to protect Taylor. The message to would be bullies and negligent school personnel- especially in reactionary areas like York County, Virginia - is have at it, bully all you want and look the other way because there will be no consequences. One can only hope that Taylor's family appeals this travesty. The reality is that Virginia's anti-bullying policies remain a joke and seem more focused on protecting school personnel and bullies than their victims. The second reality is that the lives of LGBT individuals and those perceived to be gay have little value to many in the state's judiciary. Here are highlights from the Virginia Gazette on this sad result:
A judge on Friday dismissed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against three current and former Grafton High School administrators that alleged they did not stop the bullying of a student who committed suicide in 2010.
Circuit Judge R. Bruce Long dismissed the lawsuit after a jury determined the student, Christian Taylor, did not kill himself as the result of an irresistible impulse. Under Virginia law if someone who committed suicide is found to be of sound mind at the time when he or she died — or did not die as the result of an irresistible impulse — it is considered an illegal act, which means the lawsuit could not go forward.
Taylor, who was 16 at the time of his death, was found hanging in his bedroom closet on May 31, 2010. His mother, Alise Williams, filed the lawsuit in July 2010, which alleged the school administrators should be held liable for her son's death because they did not adequately stop the bullying of her son.
The ruling comes after four days of testimony from school officials, Taylor's mother and friends, a psychologist, psychiatrist and former school superintendents from New York and Hanover County who testified as experts in school administration.
Attorney O.J. Labell on Friday told the jury the case had come down to a "battle of the experts" between the testimony of psychologist Earl Flora, a witness for Taylor, and psychiatrist Dr. Eileen Ryan, a witness for the school administrators.
On Friday, Ryan testified that she did not think Taylor was suffering from the clinical diagnosis of major depression nor did she think he was of "unsound mind" at the time of his death or that his death was the result of an irresistible impulse.
In short, to Ryan - who I am certain was paid by the school system - and the judge, Taylor was the law breaker, not his bully or the school administrators who allowed his torment to continue. As one who had two serious suicide attempts in the past myself (each sent me to the hospital), how any supposed mental health care professional can say that one is of a "sound mind" when they take their own life is ludicrous. One is at best temporarily not of a sound mind and also likely suffering from depression. Moreover, many suicides appear in good moods shortly before they act because they have finally decided to act and have a sense that their pain is about to be over. Again, I've been there. In my opinion, I pity anyone receiving mental health care treatment from Ms. Ryan. They should find a new health care provider immediately, in my opinion.
I have said many times before that I would not recommend that any LGBT consider moving to Virginia. That still holds true. I give the same advice to any progressive, modern business seeking to relocate. If Virginia is on your list, you need to seriously reconsider. Virginia could be a wonderful state, but that will never happen until the power of the Christofascists and the Republican Party of Virginia is broken. Until that happens ignorance and bigotry will remain hallmarks of the state.