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Teen sues school district over anti-gay harassment

Monday, June 26, 2000

By The Associated Press

ERIE -- A 17-year-old northwestern Pennsylvania boy is suing a school district for failing to intervene with anti-gay harassment he said drove him to try to commit suicide.

Timothy Dahle and his parents, Ronald and Diane Dahle, of Titusville this month sued the Titusville School District in Crawford County for failing to put a stop to harassment that started when the boy was in sixth grade.

The lawsuit, brought June 8 in federal court in Erie, says Dahle realized he was gay or bisexual when he was in sixth grade. He claimed that since that time he was subjected to name-calling, obscene jokes and physical assaults.

Dahle said in the suit that he reported the harassment to school administrators, but no one did anything to help.

"I know our small rural community is not the only place this is going on," Diane Dahle said. "It is happening everywhere across the U.S. We want to change things for these children."

She declined to discuss the lawsuit or its claims because of the ongoing litigation. The Dahles' attorney, David Long, said the district failed to help Dahle, and effectively denied him access to an education because he skipped school and eventually dropped out to escape the harassment.

"This type of hatred is learned behavior," Long said. "It is taught in our homes, it is taught in our churches and then it gets validated in our schools. As a society we have to refuse to tolerate it."

Titusville Superintendent Ken Winger declined comment on the suit's allegations.

"We are following up on what has been claimed and checking our records of what went on," he said. "That's really the only comment I can have at this time until we can determine what actually transpired."

Dahle claims in the suit that administrators at Titusville Junior-Senior High School were indifferent to the harassment he experienced over five years starting in 1994. By August 1998, when he was prepared to enter 10th grade, he overdosed on drugs and woke up in the intensive care unit of Titusville Area Hospital.

He said the harassment started with name-calling, but progressed to punches and other assaults and threatening notes. Dahle said administrators would move him to different classes to separate him from tormentors but didn't tell the tormentors to stop.

Dahle started skipping school and sought treatment for depression at Northwest Medical Center in Oil City in February last year, the suit said. He eventually dropped out.



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