tampabay.com

Parents sue to get student reinstated

The senior was suspended for six days and transferred after he mooned a teacher.

By THOMAS C. TOBIN
Published April 4, 2007


The family of Taylor Tillung, the Pinellas high school senior who mooned a teacher in February, is suing the School Board to get his punishment reduced.

A student at Palm Harbor University High when the incident occurred, Taylor was suspended for six days and reassigned to Clearwater High for the rest of the school year.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court alleges the transfer was unreasonably harsh because it denies him the once-in-a-lifetime chance to graduate next month with his class, participate in senior activities leading up to graduation and play his final season on Palm Harbor's varsity baseball team.

Tillung, according to the suit, had hoped a successful senior season would help him make the baseball team at Florida State University, where he has been admitted.

The suit alleges school administrators did not follow discipline procedures outlined in the district's Code of Student Conduct.

The boy mooned the teacher "suddenly and without thinking about the consequences," the lawsuit states. It says he saw the act as a "childish joke" and did not mean to insult the teacher. It also notes that he apologized.

It is not uncommon for parents to threaten legal action against the School Board, but few families follow through.

To those who say the family is taking the issue too far, Tillung's lawyer, B. Edwin Johnson, said "they don't know the facts." He added: "We're talking about his graduation. That's an important event in a guy's life. ... This kid deserves a break."

School Board Attorney Jim Robinson said late Tuesday he had not seen the lawsuit, but declared the district would "review it and defend it."

He said, "Without knowing the allegations, we're confident in the administration's position on this case."

Taylor, 18, is listed as a plaintiff with his parents, Todd and Terry Tillung of Palm Harbor. The lawsuit comes a week after a top district official, Michael Bessette, turned down the family's final appeal.

With only six weeks left in the school year, Johnson said he hoped a judge will hear the case soon.

The incident occurred Feb. 21 when Taylor tried to gain access to the annual Lip Sync show at Palm Harbor University High. When veteran teacher Carla Webster told him the event was sold out and the auditorium was too full, Taylor pressed her to let him in.

After she declined, he mooned the teacher. The lawsuit concedes that he made the act worse "by spreading his buttocks for an instant."

In a letter to district administrators, Palm Harbor principal Herman "Doc" Allen called the episode "disgusting" and said Taylor had been argumentative and defiant before mooning Webster, whom he described as "traumatized." It also described his apologies as insincere.

The lawsuit contends Allen's letter contains lies and exaggerations, and paints "a far darker, sinister Taylor Tillung than had been known up until the mooning incident."

It notes that the boy had a 3.2 grade point average and a disciplinary record with only two referrals for being tardy.