A Minnesota father is suing a local school board after his 13-year-old son committed suicide due to bullying.
Todd Seehus alleges in his suit that officials failed to respond adequately to the harassment of his son Tristan due to his perceived sexual orientation, media reports say.
“Tristan’s suicide was a foreseeable result of Defendants’ failure to provide him a safe educational environment,” the suit states, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The defendants are the Duluth School District, the school board, and administrators at Lincoln Park Middle School.
Tristan was reportedly pushed into lockers and called “freak.” The suit states that Tristan did not identify as gay, but did not “conform to traditional stereotypes of masculinity.”
The school district said in a statement that its policies on harassment were in line with federal and state legal requirements.
“While we can’t comment specifically on the litigation, it’s important to know that our schools endeavor to create an environment where all students are treated with respect and to validate the rights of all students to a safe and welcoming environment,” the statement added.
Despite complaints, the district treated Tristan differently “than other similarly situated students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation,” the suit alleged. It failed to implement policies related to harassment over sexual orientation.
“This should never happen, let alone to kids who are forced to interact with their tormentors in school every day,” Lori Peterson, the attorney for Todd Seehus, wrote in an email. “We hope we’ll be able to make a difference for other kids through bringing this action.”
The National Center for Education Statistics reported that 20 percent of students between 12 and 18 years old admitted to being bullied in 2013.
As well as requesting damages, Seehus called in his suit for an order for the district to improve its response. Proposals given include training on homophobia and strengthened policies to deal with bullying complaints.
In a statement to Minnesota Public Radio, the district said, “We continue to seek guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education, the Minnesota School Boards Association and the Minnesota State High School League in an ongoing effort to create safe, supporting environments for all students.”