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March 24. 2013 8:11PM

Parents reach settlement with Concord school over forced tattoo

CONCORD - The parents of a learning-disabled Concord High School student who was bullied into having an obscene tattoo inked on his buttocks in 2010 has reached a settlement with the Concord School District.

The settlement between the student's parents, Michael and Tammy Austin, and the school district was reached before the case was to go to trial last week in Merrimack County Superior Court, court officials said. Jury selection was set to begin March 18. Trial was expected to last two weeks.

The Austins alleged the school district knew their son, Zachary, then a 14-year-old freshman, was being bullied and harassed by upper class students, but failed to intervene on his behalf or prevent it.

The Austins also claimed the school district failed to notify them Zachary was skipping classes "in a desperate attempt to be accepted" by his tormentors with the hope they would cease their bullying if he did what they wanted, said the civil suit filed on behalf of the parents by Concord attorney Stephen A. Duggan.

Four young men were criminally charged and prosecuted for the incident in 2010. They are Ryan Fisk, Travis Johnston, Donald "D.J." Wyman and Blake VanNest.

School officials' failure to address the problem resulted in Zachary being assaulted and held against his will in the basement of a Concord duplex on May 10, 2010, where several Concord High School students tattooed a lewd phrase across his buttocks along with a crude depiction of a penis, the suit says.

The Concord School District denied all claims of liability and damages, said the district's attorney, Charles P. Bauer. The district also said any damages were caused by the actions of "third parties," including those criminally charged in the incident.

Details of the settlement were not available. Attorneys for both parties did not return calls for comment.

kmarchocki@unionleader.com


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