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Settlement may be near for forcibly tattooed New Hampshire teen: lawyer

(Note language in third, ninth paragraphs)

By Jason McLure

LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - The family of a New Hampshire teenager who was assaulted and forcibly tattooed on the buttocks by four older students during school hours hope to reach a settlement with the school district, their lawyer said on Thursday.

Michael and Tammy Austin had sought unspecified damages from the district in Concord, New Hampshire, which they say failed to provide a safe environment for their son, who had been bullied leading up to the May 2010 incident.

The Austins' son, a 14-year-old freshman with learning disabilities enrolled at Concord High School, was taken to a house near the school and held in the basement against his will. There two of the older boys took turns tattooing the words "Poop Dick" on his buttocks, according to the Austins' complaint, which was filed in state court in September 2011.

The victim's name was withheld due to his young age.

Stephen Duggan, an attorney for the Austins, said he hopes to reach a settlement with the district in the next few months. A lawyer for the district did not return telephone calls.

The victim, who had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, suffered further emotional distress after the other students took pictures of the tattoo and circulated them on cell phones. He was also subject to bullying on Facebook after the incident, the complaint said.

The suit said school officials failed to fulfill a promise to provide chaperones for the boy, who had a history of skipping classes, to make sure he got from one class to the next.

The school district has responded that it acted properly and that the students who participated in the tattooing, who were enrolled in a program for troubled youth, were at fault.

Donald Wyman, then 21, Blake Vannest, then 19, and two minors bullied the Austin's son for months prior to the incident, calling him "faggot" and "Spider man," the complaint said.

In 2010 all four pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from the tattoo incident and were sentenced to serve between three days and six months in jail.

(Editing by Scott Malone, Greg McCune and Dan Grebler)

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