Billy Lucas was different. He had darker skin because he was part Indian and part Asian. He was more of an artist than a sportsman. His passion was his horses. He was 3-months old when he rode his first horse. He was an equestrian champion. He was liked and had a lot of friends.
All of that, however, changed when his family moved to Indiana when Billy was in 4th grade. The bullying began almost immediately and didn't stop for 5 years. Most of the time he took the abuse silently, as most of us do. He would often come home from school with bruises and stories of being kicked and hit. Once he even told his mother, "You don't know what it's like to be afraid of who is going to hit you, who will trip you or who will kick you". Although his mother reported the bullying to the school district on several occasions nothing was ever done.
When he started as a high school freshman at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg, Indiana, he hoped that things would be different; that they would get better. Unfortunately, they only got worse. Billy never said he was gay, but the bullies perceived him to be. One of his friends commented on Billy being bullied, People would call him 'fag' and stuff like that, just make fun of him because he was different basically.
Everyone knew he was being bullied but they did nothing. Ironically, on September 9th, 2010, Billy was suspended from school for finally standing up for himself. He cussed at a couple of girls who were unmercifully taunting him. They told him that he was like a piece of crap, and he didn't deserve to live.
Later that night he went out to the barn to take care of and be with his beloved horses. When he didn't come in his mother went out to the barn looking for him. She found him hanging in the barn, the reins of his horse around his neck. Billy Lucas had just turned 15-years old days earlier.
On September 9, 2010, after years of verbal and physical abuse from fellow students at the Greensburg, Indiana schools, fifteen-year-old Billy Lucas killed himself at his grandmother's barn.
While reports say that Lucas made no reference to bullying in his suicide note, it has been suggested that he was the victim of a sustained campaign of bullying at the hands of some of his classmates.
In particular, it is reported that he was subjected to taunts about his perceived sexual orientation and was called "fag" among other jibes. It should be noted that Billy never self-identified as being gay.
"People would call him 'fag' and stuff like that, just make fun of him because he's different basically," said student Dillen Swango.
Students said on that same day, some students told Billy to kill himself.
"They said stuff like 'you're like a piece of crap' and 'you don't deserve to live.' Different things like that. Talked about how he was gay or whatever," said Swango.
Principal Phil Chapple doesn't deny that students are bullied in the high school, but he said he didn't know Billy was one of the victims. "We were not aware of that situation," said Chapple.
"He was threatened to get beat up every day," friend and classmate Nick Hughes said. "Sometimes in classes, kids would act like they were going to punch him and stuff and push him."
Friends of Lucas say that he had been tormented for years.
"Some people at school called him names," Hughes said, saying most of those names questioned Lucas' sexual orientation, and that Lucas, for the most part, did little to defend himself.
"He would try to but people would just try to break him down with words and stuff and just pick on him," Hughes said.
Ann Lucas said her son Billy talked to her just days before his suicide about being bullied. "He told me 'Mom, you don't know what it's like to walk down the halls of school and be afraid of who's going to hit you, who's going to kick you.'"
Billy's death was the first widely reported teen suicide in September of 2010 - within weeks, America and the world would come to know the names of at least ten more gay, or perceived gay, teens - each who would take their own life to escape the physical and emotional torture inflicted upon them by bullies.
Now, just days before the second anniversary of his death, Billy's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school district and four of its employees, claiming that Billy was targeted because of his learning disability, ethnicity and because some classmates thought he was gay.
According to court documents, Billy suffered from emotional and learning disabilities, including ADHD. "Because of this perception of his sexual orientation, W.L. (Billy Lucas) was subjected to relentless harassment, ridicule and bullying at the school (and other schools in the district) during school hours over a period of several years," court documents said.
The lawsuit names the Greensburg Community School Corporation as a defendant. Former Greensburg Principal Rodney King and Assistant Principal David Strouse were also named as defendants, along with employees Iris Ramp and Darci Kovacich.
According to the filing, "Ramp and Kovacich witnessed students harassing and bullying W.L. (Lucas) on multiple occasions yet did nothing to prevent or stop it. In fact, Ramp and Kovacich not only ignored the harassment of W.L. (Lucas) by other students at the School, but in some cases encouraged and even actively participated in the harassment of W.L. (Lucas) themselves."
"Ramp and Kovacich verbally insulted, ridiculed and abused W.L. (Billy) in front of his peers on multiple occasions," the documents said. "On at least one occasion, Kovacich confined W.L. to a 'work room' (closet) for what she considered punishment for alleged misbehavior. These and other affirmative acts by Ramp and Kovacich created or increased the risk of harm to W.L."
"To the extent the school let him be subjected to this kind of torment is inexcusable. The school violated the law by not taking steps to protect him," said Tom Blessing of Frazier Law Firm, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lucas' family.
The news of Billy's death in 2010 was the catalyst that prompted nationally syndicated columnist Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller, both victims of bullying during their youth, to launch the "It Gets Better" project.
Within two months, the "It Gets Better Project" evolved into a worldwide movement, and to-date has inspired more than 30,000 user-created videos and over 40 million views, including messages by President Barack Obama and the First Lady, aimed at providing hope and encouragement to LGBT youth.
In the days and weeks following Lucas's suicide, the extent of the bullying he faced - most of which focused on his perceived homosexuality (though Lucas never publicly identified as queer) - became clear; in fact, even after Lucas's death, his tormentors persisted, leaving homophobic hate messages on a Facebook memorial page.
By the end of September 2010, at least eight other American teenagers took their lives after enduring persistent bullying because of their perceived or acknowledged queerness. "
I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes," Dan Savage wrote later that month. "I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better... however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better."
Within weeks, Savage and Terry Miller posted to YouTube the first "It Gets Better" video. In 2012, Billy Lucas's family filed a wrongful death suit against the Greenburg Community School Corporation; the case settled in 2013 with undisclosed terms.
Billy was a bright 15 year old that enjoyed spending time on the computer, with his horses and raising lambs. As he was also LGBT, he found others in his community did not respond positively to his differences and they chose to make life very difficult for him.