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California school district pays out $750,000 over bullied gay teen’s suicide

California’s Tehachapi Unified School District has come to a settlement of $750,000 with the mother of gay teen Seth Walsh who took his own life after his school failed to protect him from anti-gay bullying
Seth Walsh
Photo by Walsh family

The mother of a California gay teen who committed suicide in 2010 after enduring years of bullying at Jacobsen Middle School has settled a lawsuit with the Tehachapi Unified School District – agreeing to receive $750,000 in compensation for its failure to protect him.

Thirteen-year-old Seth Walsh had already been subjected to bullying before he came out at school but things only got worse and he was subjected to physical and verbal bullying inside and outside of school as well as being bullied online and over the phone by other students.

Mother Wendy Walsh had initially sought $US 6 million over her son’s death but agreed to settle at $750,000 on the advice of her lawyers to avoid the school board seeking to use legal technicalities to win the case.

‘In order to avoid that risk and to bring closure to the most painful thing a parent could ever endure, the death of a child, Wendy Walsh decided to settle and forego reliving the trauma in the courtroom,’ Walsh’s lawyer Daniel Rodriguez told the Bakersfield Californian.

Californian lawmakers reacted to Seth’s death by passing AB 9, also known as Seth’s Law, which requires Californian school districts to adopt policies prohibiting bullying based on actual or perceived characteristics including sexual orientation.

As a result of Seth’s death the Tehachapi Unified School District now provides an anti-harassment curriculum for all students from kindergarten to Year 12 and requires staff members to report any incident of bullying to an administer within 24 hours.

Seth’s death was one of a number of suicides by young people who were gay or perceived to be gay that inspired writer Dan Savage to found the It Gets Better project.

Walsh said through Rodriguez that Seth’s death, ‘had not been in vain,’ because of the changes it had lead to.

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