Thursday, January 8, 2009

WA: Former bullied student sues Tukwila School District

January 6, 2009

An autistic young man and his parents have sued the Tukwila School District, claiming management failed to act against unrelenting bullying.

In a complaint served on the school district Tuesday, the former student, now 20, says years of bullying pushed him to suicidal thoughts. Court documents show repeated unsuccessful attempts by his parents to get the district to take action against the bullies.

The school district ignored complaints from the man's mother, an assistant at the middle school he attended, and its own experts who warned that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress and an anxiety disorder because of the bullying, lawyer Yvonne Kinoshita Ward said. Afflicted by Asperger's Syndrome, a more mild form of autism, the man was especially susceptible to abuse.

"People with Asperger's can become very functional adults," Ward said. "They can become productive members of society, and he was on that path."

The student began to suffer from bullying when he began sixth grade at Shoalwater Middle School. Ward said he developed suicidal thoughts because of constant taunting and physical abuse by students at the school.

The district ultimately transferred the student to a private school at the suggestion of an independent expert, according to court documents. But the district sued the student and his parents in truancy court after the student refused to attend 11th and 12th grade at Foster High School, where many of those who had bullied him were enrolled.

A district representative did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

The student's parents obtained a court order mandating that he be placed at schools outside the district, from which he graduated in June. Ward said the student still is generally afraid of people and is not able to live independently.

In the King County Superior Court lawsuit, the student is requesting unspecified damages. The district has not filed a response.

P-I reporter Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 or

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