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Pasco School Board approves anti-harassment policy

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Zachery Gray can smile on a good day in the nursing home where he needs constant care for brain damage after his attempted suicide Zachery Gray can smile on a good day in the nursing home where he needs constant care for brain damage after his attempted suicide
ZEPHYRHILLS, FL (WFLA) -

With little fanfare and no discussion the Pasco School Board today approved sweeping reforms in its anti-harassment policies prompted by the attempted suicide of ZephyrHills High School Zachery Gray two years ago.

In an Eight On Your Side investigation Gray's parents complained that educators did nothing to stop students at ZephyrHills H. S. from tormenting their son by calling him fat and labeling him as gay even though he had a girlfriend at the time.

The district denied any responsibility after an investigation in which they interviewed only one teacher. The Grays later complained to the U.S. Department of Education which launched a civil rights investigation.

The DOE recently agreed to settle the case without formal findings of fault if the district put in place wide ranging reforms intended to prevent harassment on the basis of gender or sexual orientation and a mechanism to deal with it when it occurs.

"My son is where he's at because of that,"said Zachary's father Tony."If more kids don't wind up in that situation, it'd be great."

Before Tuesday's vote during the consent agenda, Superintendent Kurt Browning told the board, "Bullying and the perception of bullying is an issue in the Pasco School District and this resolution goes a long way specifically to address the bullying issue not only at ZephyrHills High School but through out our school district."

Still, Zachery's parents remain suspicious after their treatment by the former district superintendent and administrators who insisted there wasn't a bully problem that contributed to Zachery's suicide attempt.

"They say they're gonna do it," said Gray's mother Lynn. "But the laws were there before and they didn't do it."

Later, when informed of their skepticism, Browning said the policy change was more than lip service to settle the DOE investigation.

"It's for real," said Browning. "We have for the longest time--too long--taken the bullying issue and kinda put it on the back shelf and kind  of buried our head in the sand and said we don't have a bullying issue."

Browning was not Pasco County's elected Superintendent of Schools two years ago when Gray attempted suicide, but he has seen other cases of bullying and suicide involving students unfold since his election last fall.

His district staff is planning a community forum to address the issue June 27th at Wesley Chapel High School.

"I have said repeatedly that bulling is a community issue not necessarily a school issue," said Browning. "However it manifests itself in our schools."

The Grays' attorney Robin Allweiss put the school district on notice they plan to sue for damages in connection with their son's alleged bullying and attempted suicide.

The Grays say they also plan to keep the pressure on in other ways to prevent more Pasco students from suffering the same fate as their son.

"We can't save our kid any more. What's done is done," said Zachery Gray's mother Lynn.

"But we can save yours and if we can save yours or your niece or grandchild then that's what we're doing, that's what we're fighting for."

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