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The parents of a Bennion Junior High student, who killed himself in front of his peers in 2012 amid allegations of bullying, reached a settlement Monday with the Granite School District that the family hopes will result in improved school practices.
David Phan was 14 years old on Nov. 29, 2012, when he grabbed a gun and shot himself in front of his friends on the pedestrian bridge at 6200 South.
Since then, his family has worked tirelessly to press lawmakers, school district officials and the public to take bullying and discrimination seriously two factors Phan's parents have said contributed to his state of mind on the day the boy took his own life.
The Phan family said in a statement Monday that they "honor David's life by making every effort to protect students by educating staff, families and the community about the tragic consequences of discrimination, bullying and teen suicide."
Monday's settlement is two-fold.
First, the family reached a monetary settlement with the school district, the amount of which was not immediately released.
Second, the Phan family resolved its complaint with the Department of Education by securing a commitment from the Granite School District that it would work to improve its policies and practices with guidance from the Equity Assistance Center.
The Equity Assistance Center is a Denver-based organization funded by the United States Department of Education that provides training and technical assistance to schools, districts and states across the West, to address issues of race, gender and national origin.
The services of the center are free to those who request its help.
According to the Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which helped file the Department of Education complaint, the Phan family has been "pleased" with Granite School District's efforts to improve "the policies and practices concerning police search and seizure, parental notification, privacy rights and staff training."
The junior high school student's family has said in past interviews that the teen shot himself after being suspended from the Taylorsville school, possibly for bringing a condom into the building. They also said that the day before he died, during the school's holiday fundraiser, David got a singing telegram from a boy, provoking laughter among his classmates an incident his cousin said left him feeling mortified and ashamed.
David had come out as gay to his family in the year leading up to his death. His father said he hugged his son after the admission and told him he loved him.
The day after the teen's suicide, Granite District spokesman Ben Horsley said in a statement that counselors had been in close contact with David because of "issues in his personal life." David's parents have insisted they knew nothing of this and have wondered why they weren't told of these "issues" concerning their son.
Several bills, which were ceremoniously signed into law at Cyprus High School in 2013, were devised in response to David's death and aimed at helping to prevent teen bullying and suicide.
The Phan family thanked Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, for her involvement in the passage of such legislation, which requires schools to notify parents if their children are bullied or threaten suicide; ask school districts to hold annual seminars for parents on bullying, mental health, substance abuse and Internet safety; and requires school districts and charter schools to implement youth suicide prevention programs for junior high and high school students, among other things.
The concerns over parental notification, and training staff to reach out to parents in such situations, were also among those addressed in Monday's settlement with the school district, according to the ACLU.
"They're still obviously very much in mourning over the loss of David," ACLU Legal Director John Mejía said of the Phan family. "But the settlement today does give them a lot of confidence that the efforts they made will make a difference in the lives of students going forward."