California family receives $27 million settlement over death of teen assaulted by fellow studentsVanessa Arredondo
A Southern California school district agreed to pay $27 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a 13-year-old boy who died after he was assaulted by two students four years ago.
The Moreno Valley Unified School District settled with the family of Diego Stolz, who was beaten to death at Landmark Middle School on Sept. 16, 2019. The settlement may be the largest in the country related to school bullying, according to law firm Taylor & Ring, which made the announcement Wednesday.
Cellphone video of the incident showed two teenagers confronting and punching Stolz, who fell and hit his head against a pillar in the schoolyard. He died several days later from a brain injury.
Bullying at schools is pervasive across the country. According to a recent report by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, 40% of youth said they were bullied on school property in the past year, and 38% of them didn’t tell an adult.
"The school knew Diego was being targeted and did nothing to put an end to the bullying," the firm wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. "We hope this case is a wake-up call to all schools in the U.S. – take your anti-bullying policies seriously and when a student complains, take action."
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Attack caught on videoAccording to the suit, the family issued multiple complaints to school administrators about the repeated verbal and physical abuse Stolz experienced on and off campus. But lawyers said their concerns were not taken seriously.
Days before the teen's death, family members met with school administrators to ask for protection, according to the lawyers. Officials promised to suspend the students for three days but when Stolz arrived at school the following Monday, his bullies were still there.
Two teens confronted Soltz during lunchtime that day, according to video footage. One sucker punched him in the face. As Stolz staggered back, another boy punched him on the side of his head, causing Stolz to fall. His assailants punched him one more time before leaving.
A family in mourningA principal and two assistant principals were dismissed from Landmark Middle School following an investigation into Stolz's death. The lawsuit alleges that the school did not report previous assaults to police.
“We understand hearing news regarding Diego may be challenging to hear,” said Moreno Valley Unified School District Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora in an email to families and staff Wednesday evening. “The news of Diego’s death was not something we took lightly. The safety and well-being of our students is and will remain our top priority.”
The message described anti-bullying efforts enacted by the district — such as online forms to report bullying and visible information in the classroom like posters and business cards — since Stolz’s death in 2019.
"Diego was, by all accounts, the sweetest nicest kid you could ever meet," lawyers said on behalf of the family. "When the bullies confronted him yet again, Diego put his hands to his side because he was told to never fight at school."
Nine days after the altercation, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department announced that Stolz had been pronounced clinically dead due to his injuries. The family decided to donate his organs to "transform this tragedy into the gift of life for other children."
Two teenagers, aged 14 at the time of the attack, were arrested. They pleaded guilty in juvenile court to involuntary manslaughter and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. The teens, whose names were withheld because they were minors, spent 47 days in custody and were ordered to undergo anger management therapy, according to The Associated Press.
Family said Stolz was a 'typical 13-year-old boy.' He liked playing video games, soccer, and music. He was raised by his aunt and uncle after his parents died.
"The family will forever be heartbroken by the death of Diego but they hope this case brings about change in school districts across the country," said the family’s lead counsel Dave Ring in a release. "Diego’s death was preventable if this school had simply prioritized an antibullying policy."
Al works in film/tv and the theatre in New York, Toronto, and Los Angeles some highlights include: the award-winning short film Walled IN (written & produced by Al), Workin’ Moms, The Umbrella Academy, The Novice, Nikita, How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days, Showtime’s Street Time, Off Broadway: The Interrogation, Will (written by Al), 2013 Winner! LA Drama Critics Awards for Best Production, Director, Adaptation, CYRANO (World Premiere, DeafWest/Fountain Theatre), 2011 Ovation & LA Weekly Award winning Best Musical, Best Musical Director, Best Director, HOBOKEN TO HOLLYWOOD, The Sunshine Boys (with Hal Linden and Allan Miller) plus, many more. Today, Al is a finalist at the Actors Studio and works as an actor, writer, filmmaker and acting professor in Toronto.