By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com November 30 2011 3:49 PM ET
Zach Huston loves to run. Still, the track coaches at Unioto High School in
Chillicothe, Ohio probably don't know that because he's too worried what his
peers might do if he were to join the track team.
Huston, a freshman at the school, was the subject of a beating, caught
on video that went viral online. He says that without the October 17 attack
being filmed, faculty and administrators would have taken little action against
his assailant. In fact, Huston says his classmates have taunted him since the
third grade, with little done to stop or prevent it.
"In third grade, they didn't know what gay was yet, so they didn't call me
that, but they mimicked my voice and called me other names," Huston told
The Advocate. "That was up until fifth
grade. That's when everyone started to know what gay was, so they called me gay
slurs. Then freshman year, the physical stuff started."
The 14-year-old Huston said this year in high school, other students started
daring each other to touch him, or shove him. For years his mother, Rebecca
Collins, had urged teachers to stand up for her son. Now that many have witnessed
the brutal beating and called for action, Collins said she isn't backing down
from people who say she's only drumming up publicity for money or personal
"If you're not going to protect your kid, no one else is going to do
it," she said. "If you still don't get the satisfaction that you're
looking for, then take the next step. Go to town halls, get legal counsel, and
just work to get the awareness out. We have to stop this from happening."
Collins was interviewed after the tape turned up online, and she narrated
what she saw of the vicious beating, with the attacker loitering as he waited
for Huston, then punching him as Huston tries to escape, until he finally
stands over Huston on the ground and delivers at least seven punches in quick succession,
the smacks audible on the tape.
Huston's attacker — identified as 15-year-old Levi Sever —has apparently pleaded guilty to a delinquency count of assault, and he now must wear an ankle monitor and check in with a probation officer, according to the Lancaster Eagle Gazette.
The family is now working with the
American Civil Liberties Union to ensure the harassment, bullying, and assault that
Huston endured is quashed before it can get much worse. ACLU officials sent a
letter to the Union-Scioto school district threatening a lawsuit and seeking
changes to prevent future cases of bullying. And more than 80,000 people across
the country have a signed an online petition calling for changes at the school.
Still, Huston said he worries the climate of hostility may not improve at his
school for future generations.
Collins said her strong bond with Huston and his siblings have helped their
family cope with tough issues before.
"If you're not in tune with your child, and you can't tell that
something's going on with them, that's when you end up with suicide," she
said. "They're still children. If you're a good parent, you're going to
raise good kids. My kids come to me for some silly reasons, but you talk to
them, and you help them in any way you can."
After the incident, Huston walks the halls every day and endures taunts from
classmates, some of whom have also filed bullying reports against him. Collins
said she saves all of the Facebook comments that she and her son receive from
naysayers and others who threaten them. While he has found allies in some like
his assistant principal, Huston said other students still get picked on just
for being different. Huston's assistant principal has been talking about
starting a Gay-Straight Alliance, which seems to Huston like a step in the
right direction. Until then, Huston plans to walk from class to class with his
head held high.
"You can't just give into people's expectations," Huston said.
"You've got to be yourself. What doesn't kill you makes you