(CN) — A school district in Moreno Valley, California, agreed Wednesday to pay $27 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a 13-year-old who was fatally beaten by bullies at his middle school.
Diego Stolz and his family had lodged complaints with school administrators at Landmark Middle School, a school in the Moreno Valley Unified School District in Riverside County, asking for help as the child faced verbal and physical bullying by other students while Stolz was in both seventh and eighth grade.
After being sucker-punched in the back of his head as he was walking to class in September 2019, Stolz and a family member met with the assistant principal of the school. The assistant principal promised to suspend the students who assaulted Stolz, but when Stolz returned to school a few days later, the students had not been suspended. During the lunch period that day, the same students punched Stolz in the face, causing him to fall and hit his head on a concrete pillar. A student hit Stolz again in the face as he was on the ground while another student recorded a video of the incident on their phone.
Stoltz died nine days later from a brain injury.
“An incredibly tragic case. Diego was a great kid. He was never in trouble,” said Dave Ring, the attorney for the Stolz family.
Ring said he doesn’t specialize in school bullying cases, but he has taken them on before and this case hit a nerve.
“He did the right thing, he went and told the school,” where he was promised he was going to be looked out for and kept safe, but instead, he and his family’s concerns were put on the back burner, Ring said. “He comes back Monday, the school had done nothing, and he gets killed.”
The principal of the school and two assistant principals were removed from the school after Stolz’s death.
“If they had done what they were supposed to do,” Ring said, “it would have been handled. Diego would have been alive”
Ring hopes the settlement in this case will be a wakeup call to school districts around the country to strengthen their anti-bullying policies.
He described the middle school’s anti-bullying seminars at the time of Stolz’s death as being “aimed at seven-year-olds.”
According to local reports, the two juvenile students who assaulted Stolz pleaded the equivalent of guilty in juvenile court to assault and involuntary manslaughter charges. They were ordered by a Riverside County Superior Court judge to do community service and participate in anger management and empathy courses.
The Moreno Valley Unified School District did not immediately return a request for comment.
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