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A small-town teenager who was bullied for years by classmates in Kansas because they believed he was gay was awarded $440,000 in a harassment suit, his lawyer said. The settlement, reached Thursday, ended a long-running battle between the Tonganoxie school district and 18-year-old Dylan Theno, who sued in May 2004, claiming he was harassed with homophobic slurs from seventh grade until he quit school his junior year.
Under the terms, the school district and its insurance company will pay Theno $440,000, said his attorney, Arthur Benson. "I expect this case will have profound effects nationwide in dealing with school-yard bullying and harassment," Benson said. "Insurance companies will have a very powerful economic incentive to see that districts' antiharassment policies are aggressive and effective."
Benson argued that the district enforced its sexual harassment policy when a female student was harassed but didn't in Theno's case. Calls to the school district and its attorney, Steven Pigg, were not immediately returned. Tonganoxie, located 20 miles west of Kansas City, has about 2,700 residents.
In August a federal jury had found in Theno's favor, but the district appealed, and a judge ordered a federal mediator to try to settle the dispute. Theno, who testified that he isn't gay, recently earned his GED and attends a vocational technical school in Kansas City. "I feel great," he said about the settlement. "I mean, you have all that lifted off your shoulders at once. The school district has finally been held accountable for their actions." (AP)