published Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Murray County Schools won’t request money owed by bullied boy’s parents

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

Murray County Schools officials will not pursue the $30,000 that the parents of a student who killed himself owe the system.

The North Georgia school district successfully defended itself against a lawsuit from David and Tina Long. They argued that Murray County High School leaders didn’t do enough to stop students from bullying their son Tyler, who committed suicide in October 2009. After winning its cases, the school district filed bills of cost in the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The two bills stated that the Longs owed about $30,000 in court fees — most of it to cover the cost of copying records necessary for the trials. Then, last week, the school district said it would not press the family to pay the money.

“The school district never initiated or intended to initiate any effort to collect those costs from the Longs,” read a statement, released by Administrative Service Director Mike Tuck. “Murray County Schools have never ‘sued’ the Longs. It is the district’s job to educate, not litigate, and based on recent test scores and other indicia, the district is doing a terrific job of educating the children of Murray County.”

The Longs say the school district agreed to drop the litigation to recover the $30,000 if the family promised they wouldn’t try to bring the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This has been both heartbreaking and devastating for our family,” David and Tina Long said in a statement. “Our resolve has never been about money, merely justice for our son. With a $30,000 possible cost against us we had to consider what is best for our children.”

The Longs have two other children, twins who will be college freshmen this fall. Tina is a nurse and David manages a carpet mill. They have said in the past that they can’t pay $30,000.

Their son Tyler was 17 when he committed suicide in October 2009. He had Asperger’s syndrome, and his parents say he was often ridiculed by other students, beginning when he got to middle school.

The Longs filed a lawsuit against Murray County Schools in 2010, and the case was featured in a documentary called “Bully.” In May 2012, the U.S. District Court ruled against the Longs, and the U.S. Court of Appeals did the same this June.

In its statement released last week, the school district pointed out many facts it used to defend itself in court. Tyler Long killed himself at home. His parents thought he might be suicidal and brought him to a psychologist, but they didn’t alert school officials.

Also, the school district says, Tyler Long got into a car crash about a month before he killed himself, and at the time he worried about whether he would lose his driver’s license.

“The real facts are in stark contrast to what has been eagerly and gullibly reported by most of the media since the Longs filed their lawsuit seeking a million dollars from the taxpayers of Murray County and traveling the country on a media campaign,” the statement reads.

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

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