District failed to stop bullies before boy, 13, was fatally sucker punched: Legal claim
MORENO VALLEY, Calif. - Family members of a 13-year-old boy who died from injuries after being sucker-punched by classmates at a Moreno Valley school announced Tuesday that they will be filing a wrongful death claim against the district.
The family alleges in the filing that 13-year-old Diego Stolz died as a result of being bullied and asserts that the Moreno Valley Unified School District "failed to take bullying complaints by Diego's family seriously and failed to enforce anti-bullying policies to protect its students," according to a press release. It also states that the district "has a long history of student altercations on its campuses."
According to an attorney representing the family, three days before his death, Diego and his adult cousin met with the assistant principal at Landmark Middle School to discuss the ongoing bullying he was facing from a group of boys at school.
The administrator allegedly assured the boy that the bullies would be suspended for three days, starting Monday, and told him he could miss the remainder of the school day.
However, come Monday morning, the boys were still at school and later that day, two boys confronted Diego and threw the punches that ultimately claimed his life.
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“I don’t believe the bullies were ever talked to. My information is that the assistant principal did absolutely nothing with that information — ever,” attorney Dave Ring said during a press conference Tuesday. "You had a school who knew he was targeted and really did nothing to protect him."
Video shared on social media showed that Diego was punched by two students at Landmark Middle on September 16. After the second student struck him, Diego's head hit a concrete pillar as he fell to the ground. The first teen punched him a third time before running away.
The boy was knocked unconscious and never woke up. He was removed from life support nine days later.
“It could’ve been prevented if this school took bullying seriously,” Ring said.
In response to the claim that MVUSD did not prevent Diego from being bullied, the school district's public information officer Anahi Velasco said, "Bullying in schools is a national issue. This issue constitutes a shared responsibility amongst parents, students, school district personnel, community leaders and law enforcement. Together, we need to send a resounding message these behaviors will not be tolerated in our schools. Keeping kids safe in schools is a high priority at MVUSD."
The claim will be filed against the district on behalf of Diego's parental figures Juana Salcedo and Felipe Salcedo.
The filing, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, lists damages of $100 million. The family hopes that procedural changes will be made in the district to make sure administrators take effective action when they are given serious complaints about bullying.
“We are seeking for this school district to enact true, effective real policies that they actually enforce so that this never happens again," said Ring. "So that bullying is dealt with at this school and school district.”
In a statement in part, the school district said, "This claim alleges the District is legally liable for Diego’s death. That is not the case. The two boys who attacked and killed Diego are responsible for this death."
The two students accused of assaulting Diego were initially arrested on suspicion of assault likely to produce great bodily injury. Those charges were amended on September 30, adding one count of voluntary manslaughter against each of them. Both remain in jail. Their names have not been released.