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Settlement reached in suicide of teen who endured years of anti-gay bullying

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
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TEHACHAPI, Calif. — The mother of a Central California teenager who committed suicide after years of anti-gay bullying has reached a $750,000 settlement with her son’s school district.

Wendy Walsh, whose 13-year-old son, Seth, committed suicide in 2010, accused the Tehachapi Unified School District of failing to take adequate steps to stop her son from being harassed.

Seth had endured years of relentless bullying and verbal abuse at his Tehachapi, Calif. school. On Sept. 19, 2010, Seth hanged himself from a tree in the family’s backyard after being bullied, threatened and assaulted by at least three teenage boys in a park earlier that afternoon. He died nine days later after his family removed him from life support.

Seth’s mother and close friends reported that teachers and school administrators were aware that Seth was being harassed and, in some instances, participated in the harassment. One teacher allegedly called Seth “fruity” in front of an entire class, and students regularly called him “fag” and “queer.”

On July 1, federal investigators concluded that the Tehachapi Unified School District failed to “adequately investigate or respond appropriately” to reports that Seth was being bullied.

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Wendy Walsh initially sought more than $6 million. Her attorney, Daniel Rodriguez, says she took the reduced amount in part to avoid the trauma of a trial.

Tehachapi Unified Superintendent Lisa Gilbert says the district now requires bullying to be reported and investigated in a timely manner.

The Bakersfield Californian reports the settlement was reached in March.

A year after Seth’s death, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed “Seth’s Law,” an anti-bullying measure aimed at giving public schools tools to prevent and address bullying through mandatory policies, and systems to help discourage harassment and track incidents when they do occur.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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