(Note: Contains offensive language in paragraph three)
By Jason McLure
LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - The parents of a New Hampshire teenager who was assaulted and forcibly tattooed on the buttocks by four older students during school hours have filed suit against the school district.
Michael and Tammy Austin are seeking unspecified damages from the district in Concord, New Hampshire, which they say failed to provide a safe environment for their son and to protect him from bullying in the May 2010 incident.
A group of older students lured the boy, who was 14 at the time, to a house near Concord High School, where they tattooed a picture of a penis and the words ‘Poop Dick’ on his buttocks, according to the lawsuit filed in Merrimack County Superior Court.
“We believe they had a duty to protect, and they failed in that task,” Stephen Duggan, an attorney for the parents, said in an interview this week.
“The end result is he was physically assaulted with this horrendous tattoo. While modern medicine will allow it to be removed to some degree, the emotional scars will live on.”
The victim, who had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, suffered further emotional distress after other students took pictures of the tattoo and circulated them on cell phones. He was also subject to bullying on Facebook after the incident, the complaint said.
The school exacerbated the situation by calling an assembly on bullying on the victim’s first day back at school after the incident, it said. Following the assembly, he was further harassed and bullied, the complaint said.
The suit said school officials failed to fulfill a promise to provide chaperones for the boy, who had a history of skipping classes, to make sure he got from one class to the next.
A trial is scheduled for October, with school officials to be deposed in July. The lawsuit was filed in July 2011 but just started to receive media attention this week.
The school district has responded that it acted properly and that the students who participated in the tattooing were at fault.
“It’s an unfortunate case and particularly an unfortunate case for the school district,” said Charles Bauer, a lawyer for the school system. “There were four individuals convicted criminally of the assault. The school district took all appropriate actions before and after the incident.”
Donald Wyman, then 21, Blake Vannest, then 19, and two minors bullied the Austin’s son for months prior to the incident, calling him insulting names, the complaint said.
In 2010 they all pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from the tattoo incident and were sentenced to serve between three days and six months in jail.
Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst, Greg McCune and David Brunnstrom