Parents Blame School|for Son’s Slaying

FAIRFIELD, Calif. (CN) – A history of campus violence and the Vallejo City Unified School District refusal to institute safety protocols led to their son’s murder, parents say in a lawsuit against the district and its top administrators.
     Kenneth Maxwell Rusk was shot in the head at Jesse Bethel High School a day after the gunman held up three other students in an armed robbery, Rusk’s parents say in the Monday lawsuit in Solano County Court.
     Jamie Rusk and James Busch sued the Vallejo City Unified School District, Superintendent Ramona Bishop and high school principal Linda Kingston for wrongful death and negligence.
     The parents say three Bethel High students were eating lunch outside on May 13, 2015 when Zachary Kroll, 19, came on campus and robbed them at gunpoint.
     The students alerted Vallejo City police and school administrators, but rather than lock down the campus, repairing or upgrading the inoperable security cameras, or increasing security, an administrator chastised the student who reported the incident to the police, the parents say in the lawsuit.
     They say the school did not notify parents of the robbery, intentionally keeping it quiet.
     The next day, they say, Kroll returned in the late morning and shot Max Rusk in the head, killing him. Kroll and a 16-year old alleged accomplice were arrested and are awaiting trial.
     “Violence in the Vallejo City School District has been ongoing for many years. It was so common that the Grand Jury investigated defendant Vallejo School District and issued a Grand Jury Report in 2012-2013,” according to the complaint.
     The Grand Jury report reviewed the effect of security on graduation rates for all high schools in Solano County, and found that of the 10 schools, the two in Vallejo had the highest number of incidents of disruptive and defiant behavior.
     “The numbers clearly are higher than all other schools combined,” the report stated.
     In 2013, Bethel High had 385 “caused, attempted or threatened physical injury” incidents, 1,051 incidents of disruption/defiance, 426 suspensions and 1,023 truancies in a student population of 1,892. For “an unknown reason” Bethel High did not report numbers in the category “Use of Force or Violence,” the report said.
     The report cited a telling difference between the two Vallejo high schools and the other eight high schools in the county: lack of a school resource officer, a police officer dedicated to the campus.
     In her required response to the Grand Jury report, Superintendent Bishop disputed the conclusion that a lack of resource officers was responsible for poor graduation rates (75.2 percent for Bethel High and 65.9 for Vallejo High in 2013). She said that “research and available data suggests those rates are more properly attributed to attendance and economic factors.”
     Bishop said that 70 percent of her district’s students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch, “which means they meet federal poverty guidelines.”
     “All I can say is this never would have happened in Walnut Creek,” the parents’ attorney Kirk Boyd said.
     Walnut Creek is a more affluent city about 20 miles from Vallejo.
     Bishop’s office did not respond to requests for comments. The Vallejo Police Department declined to comment.
     The parents are represented by Kirk Boyd with Boyd & Berkowitz in San Francisco, and David Williams in Walnut Creek.

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