The parents of a high school student who was allegedly bullied, abused and -- forcibly tattooed -- are suing a school district in Concord, New Hampshire. The situation reached a boiling point in 2010 when 14-year-old Zach Austin was purportedly convinced to cut class. According to the Daily Mail, Austin was led into a man's basement, where five people forcibly branded his buttocks with an obscene picture and phrase.
The teen's parents, Michael and Tammy Austin, maintain that the Concord School District could have done more beforehand to protect him from the attack. Austin, who apparently had a history of cutting class and of having problems with fellow students, had suffered quite a bit of torment from fellow students prior to the incident.
The Concord Monitor provides information on Austin's complicated in-school background:
One teacher wrote in an evaluation his freshman year that he was "a pleasant, well behaved young man who never disrupts the class," according to the court file.
He was also, she wrote, "someone who had an obvious problem of knowing when to ask for help."
Zach had asked for help in early 2010, according to the suit, when he told his parents that kids at school were "teasing and harassing calling him 'gay,' and a 'faggot.' "
His father, Michael Austin, told him to report any bullying to a teacher or Assistant Principal Ben Greene. Zach didn't follow through because, the suit alleges, the school hadn't told students the proper channels for reporting bullying and because of his "documented acute problem with learning disabilities and self-esteem issues."
Greene, the assistant principal, spent many days tracking Zach down when he noticed the boy skipping class to hang out in the Holt Street neighborhood, White Park or the senior parking lot. Zach received three after-school detentions in December but skipped all of them and was given an in-school suspension.
To confront these issues, the district had decided, just one month before the May 2010 attack, to assign someone who would walk him to classes and ensure that he wasn't being bullied. On May 10, though, it seems Austin, whose parents also complain that his teacher was doing little to help ease the impact of his Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), didn't have the purported escort that had been assigned to him.
Thus, he was lured by the five men (some of whom were teenagers and students at the school) to a local home where he was subsequently tattooed with the words "Poop D***" and a drawing of a penis.
According to the Monitor, the perpetrators -- Donald Wyman, Blake Van Nest, Travis Johnston and Ryan Fisk -- pleaded guilty to charges related to the incident back in September and October 2010. They were sentenced to serve between three days and six months in jail. Three of the men -- students at Concord High School -- were expelled. A fifth individual, Zach Hebert, was also named in the parents' lawsuit against the district as being responsible for the incident.
Initially, the parents claim that Austin did not tell them about the incident. Instead, he reported it to a guidance counselor who purportedly didn't notify them. Michael and Tammy were not informed about what happened, they claim, until another teacher overheard students talking about the incident and then notified administrators (who called the police).
"The school is the responsible party that should be accountable in this situation, not some juveniles and a couple of kids who aren't in a position to understand and know what the school knew about our client,’ Chuck Douglas, the parents' attorney, told the Monitor.
Austin has since left Concord High School and is currently attending a different educational facility. The case is scheduled to be heard by a jury before October.