School Ordered to Pay $250,000 to Bullied Teen

ByABC News

Aug. 12, 2005 — -- A federal jury has ordered a Kansas school district to pay $250,000 to a former student tormented by school bullies.

"That's five years of my life that I had to live -- just depressed, angry, scared," said the boy, Dylan Theno, 18, of Tonganoxie, Kan. "I can never get that back."

Theno won the award Thursday after his family sued the Tonganoxie School District, claiming Theno had suffered years of bullying, and that school officials didn't attempt to stop the harassment.

Theno ultimately dropped out of school as a junior and has been under psychiatric care. He since has received his GED.

"I was just miserable," Theno told Martin Augustine of ABC News affiliate KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Mo. "You wake up every morning, begging my parents not to make me go to school. … I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to walk down those halls anymore."

The lawsuit was filed under Title IX, a law which prohibits sexual discrimination in any institution receiving federal funds. The suit said the bullies repeatedly called Theno homosexual names. Theno said he is not a homosexual.

The jury ruled that the behavior constituted gender-based harassment and that the school district ignored it.

School officials are considering an appeal.

Theno's attorney, Arthur Benson, said the case will serve as a wake-up call for school districts across the country not to tolerate bullying.

"You start with a case like this and put everybody on notice," Benson said. "The next case that comes along, the school district should have known better."

Theno hopes the message reaches other students who are scared to go to school because of bullies.

"This could be happening to some other kid out there, and it shouldn't be," Theno said. "Now if it is, they know something will be done about it."

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