EUGENE — A federal trial is under way in a lawsuit that accuses Harrisburg school officials of failing to protect a middle school boy with Tourette’s syndrome from anti-gay harassment and attacks.
The boy’s mother testified Tuesday that he was shoved, slapped and taunted by students who perceived his neurological disorder as homosexuality, the Eugene Register-Guard reports.
She pulled him out of the seventh grade in 2010 after he was harassed in a locker room.
His condition makes him socially awkward, because he doesn’t have the same “coping mechanisms or off-the-cuff responses a normal kid has," his mother said.
The paper did not identify her to protect the identity of the youth, now 15 and living in Alaska. He sat between his mother and lawyer in court.
The lawsuit seeks $250,000.
Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder that typically manifests in early adolescence, sometimes causing muscle tics and verbal outbursts.
The school district’s attorney, Karen Vickers, didn’t dispute that incidents occurred between the boy and other students. But each involved different alleged perpetrators, she said, so district officials could not have foreseen that they would occur.
She also said witnesses for the school district would contradict some of the boy’s accounts.
The district has policies, training and programs designed to discourage such behavior, she said.
Vickers reminded the jury of the setting, a public middle school.
“These are educators," she said of the defendants. “They want kids to have a positive experience, to get an education — they don’t want kids to push each other and shove each other and mistreat each other . . . but let’s be honest here. Even if they want kids to treat each other kindly, that doesn’t always happen."