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In Memoriam

On anniversary of Billy Lucas’ suicide, family files wrongful death lawsuit

Billy's death was the catalyst for the 'It Gets Better' project
Sunday, September 9, 2012

Two years ago today, on September 9, 2010, Billy (William) Lucas, a 15-year-old from Greensburg, Ind., was was found dead in a barn at his grandmother’s home. He had hanged himself.

While Billy never self-identified as gay, friends said he was tormented for years because other kids thought he was gay.

Billy took his own life just hours after fellow students told him he didn’t deserve to live.

Ann Lucas said her son Billy talked to her just days before his suicide about being bullied. “He told me ‘Mom, you don’t know what it’s like to walk down the halls of school and be afraid of who’s going to hit you, who’s going to kick you.’”

Billy Lucas

Billy’s death was the first widely reported teen suicide in September of 2010 — within weeks, America and the world would come to know the names of at least ten more gay, or perceived gay, teens — each who would take their own life to escape the physical and emotional torture inflicted upon them by bullies.

Now, just days before the second anniversary of his death, Billy’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school district and four of its employees, claiming that Billy was targeted because of his learning disability, ethnicity and because some classmates thought he was gay.

According to court documents, Billy suffered from emotional and learning disabilities, including ADHD.

“Because of this perception of his sexual orientation, W.L. (Billy Lucas) was subjected to relentless harassment, ridicule and bullying at the school (and other schools in the district) during school hours over a period of several years,” court documents said.

The lawsuit names the Greensburg Community School Corporation as a defendant. Former Greensburg Principal Rodney King and Assistant Principal David Strouse were also named as defendants, along with employees Iris Ramp and Darci Kovacich.

According to the filing, “Ramp and Kovacich witnessed students harassing and bullying W.L. (Lucas) on multiple occasions yet did nothing to prevent or stop it. In fact, Ramp and Kovacich not only ignored the harassment of W.L. (Lucas) by other students at the School, but in some cases encouraged and even actively participated in the harassment of W.L. (Lucas) themselves.”

“Ramp and Kovacich verbally insulted, ridiculed and abused W.L. (Billy) in front of his peers on multiple occasions,” the documents said. “On at least one occasion, Kovacich confined W.L. to a ‘work room’ (closet) for what she considered punishment for alleged misbehavior. These and other affirmative acts by Ramp and Kovacich created or increased the risk of harm to W.L.”

“To the extent the school let him be subjected to this kind of torment is inexcusable. The school violated the law by not taking steps to protect him,” said Tom Blessing of Frazier Law Firm, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lucas’ family.

The news of Billy’s death in 2010 was the catalyst that prompted nationally syndicated columnist Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller, both victims of bullying during their youth, to launch the “It Gets Better” project.

Within two months, the “It Gets Better Project” evolved into a worldwide movement, and to-date has inspired more than 30,000 user-created videos and over 40 million views, including messages by President Barack Obama and the First Lady, aimed a providing hope and encouragement to LGBT youth.

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Filed under: Indiana

10 more reader comments:

  1. I hope they ruin that school and those morons who participated in his pain.

    Posted on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 4:37pm
  2. Good luck getting those souless people who turned their backs.

    Posted on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 4:40pm
  3. dude…it’s so sad…I can almost feel the pain of that poor kid… the sadness is his eyes. He is not longer here…I hope he is in a better place now

    Posted on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 4:51pm
  4. I am happy that someone is standing up for the countless number of children who have to live everyday with bulling. We all as adults know how hard it is growing up. The pressures that parents and society puts on children is unreal and the when they go to school there is on one there that they can turn to. I know that every school district is different and yes I had some very good teachers but in general most are there just for the paycheck.

    Posted on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 4:54pm
  5. This should never happen. When will it end? I hope the family wins millions. Maybe a a few of these districts received bankrupting rulings against them, they’d take their duty of protecting ALL their students seriously.

    Posted on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 5:57pm
  6. I had dedicated nuns. They weren’t in it for the paycheck.

    Posted on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 5:58pm
  7. The problem, in most cases, is with ADMINISTRATION, not individual teachers. As a former teacher, I can tell you, no one goes into teaching for the money, since most teachers take money out of their own wallets to pay for stuff their students need. As with problem administrators–who are supposed to lead by example, some school districts are still not doing anything/enough to intervene w/ bullies and victims. I am all in favor of suing schools/districts that either won’t comply with the bullying statutes, or won’t create programming at all to deal with these issues. Most teachers are great! They work their *sses off, and speak up about the bullies/victims more often than you think. The problem is that it falls on deaf ears. All an individual teacher can do is intervene personally–and they must, and keep bringing it to the attention of administration. Some listen and act, some don’t. We should be going after them.

    Posted on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 8:04pm
  8. ITS ABOUT TIME, THE MONSTERS WHO DROVE THIS KID TO SUICIDE SHOULVE BEEN PROSECTUTED A LONG TIME AGO, an innocent life was lost for what? because he was gay? i wish more people would open their eyes and see we are all humans who breathe air! why make someone else stop breathing air just because theyre a little different?

    Posted on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 10:46pm
  9. This has to stop!!! I wish these kids would see that there is another way! If my arms were big enough I would wrap them around every child I could and let them know it gets better because it does!

    Posted on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 10:47pm
  10. ^ Thank you for making my day.

    Posted on Monday, September 10, 2012 at 12:38am