Amy and David Truong, parents of gay teen suicide victim Asher Brown, have dropped their lawsuit against the Cy-Fair Independent School District in Houston.
Brown, 13, committed suicide in September 2010. The Truongs claimed Asher had been bullied based on his Buddhist beliefs, his size and his sexual orientation.
The Truongs became crusaders for passage of anti-bullying legislation in Texas and testified in favor of the state’s new anti-bullying law, which passed in 2011.
“All of this has been so difficult,” Amy Truong wrote on her blog recently after they dismissed the lawsuit. “Yet, no matter what happens, we have won. Everyone in the state has won. Laws have changed and everyone benefits from it.”
The school district denied the Truong’s allegations about bullying at Hamilton Middle School. Officials claimed Asher’s death resulted from problems at home.
Martin Cirkiel, the Truongs’ attorney, said the suit was based on Title IX and was dropped because they were unable to prove Asher was bullied because of gender or gender stereotypes. Neither state nor federal law specifically prohibits bullying based on sexual orientation. The standard of proof under Title IX is high, Cirkiel said.
According to the Houston Chronicle, “In dismissal documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, the plaintiff stated that there was no evidence that the school district withheld or destroyed evidence and that allegations that other students observed and reported Asher being abused in gym class were untrue.”
The school district spokesman said false and unsubstantiated allegations were made and the lawsuit cost the district $200,000.
Cirkiel said the case was never about money and could have settled a long time ago.
“We were not able to show the school district was legally and deliberately indifferent,” Cirkiel said. “We were able to show he was bullied. He was harassed pervasively.”
Cirkiel gave examples such as Asher won an award and was booed. The day before his death he was pushed down the stairs, he said.
“We have evidence of all of that,” he said.
During discovery, one witness admitted to lying, but Cirkiel said that was one incident in a 40-page complaint and there were a number of other witnesses to bullying that took place.
School district officials complain they still hear weekly about Asher after two-and-a-half years. Cirkiel said the district has never had a bullying assessment or a review by an independent party.
Amy Truong wrote the following on her blog after the suit was dropped:
2 1/2 Years
Posted on March 24, 2013 by ashersparents
Yesterday it was two and a half years since we saw Asher last. So long ago yet just like yesterday. I miss Asher so much. We both do.
Today we were vandalized again. I think it has to do with Asher’s case. People from the district have been deposed recently and other people have been questioned by our investigator in relation to the case. Leaks have made statements to others that have gotten back to us.
All of this has been so difficult. Yet, no matter what happens, we have won. Everyone in the state has won. Laws have changed and everyone benefits from it.
Our faith has seen us through. Prayer from so many as well as support have seen us through. Nothing of course brings Asher back, but we have to hope we have honored his life and memory over this time. He didn’t die in vain.