School district reaches $27 million settlement with victim | ET REALITY

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The Moreno Valley Unified School District has agreed to pay $27 million to the family of an eighth-grade student who died in a bullying incident four years ago at Landmark Middle School.

Attorneys representing Diego Stolz’s family announced the settlement Wednesday.

Diego Stolz was 13 years old when he died. A graphic video of the attack that took his life showed the moment two teenagers attacked him on school grounds.

In the video, Stolz can be seen with his arms at his sides as another student walks right into his face before punching him. Stunned, Stolz takes a step back before a second off-screen student punches him in the back of the head. Stolz immediately falls and then hits his head on a pillar.

Stolz suffered a traumatic brain injury and died nine days later.

DIEGO STOLZ ATTACK
Video captured on a student’s cell phone shows the moments before Diego Stolz was attacked by two teenagers in September 2019. Stolz died nine days after the attack. (Video provided by family lawyers)

His family sued the School District, alleging that he was a habitual victim of bullying and that the school was aware of the ongoing harassment he faced.

Dave Ring, one of the family’s attorneys, called Diego’s death “avoidable” if the school had taken the concerns more seriously and prioritized an anti-bullying policy.

In the days before the attack that would end his life, the harassment of Diego intensified, which led to an encounter with the 13-year-old boy and a family member.

The family’s attorneys say school administrators promised family members and Diego that the boys who harassed and bullied him would be suspended and that the school was “dealing” with the problem.

But when Diego arrived at school days later, he found that the children were not suspended and the bullying began again, reaching new levels when he was physically attacked for what would be the last time.

The settlement comes after a 2020 California law was enacted that stated legal guardians were allowed to file a civil lawsuit for the wrongful death or negligence of a minor. Diego’s biological parents had died when he was young and his uncles raised him.

The bill was inspired by Diego’s death and allowed his legal guardians to file civil lawsuits against the School District.

The settlement comes nearly four years after the attack that ultimately took his life. The $27 million payment is the largest harassment settlement in the country’s history, the family’s lawyers say.

“The family will always be heartbroken by Diego’s death, but they hope this case will lead to changes in school districts across the country,” Ring said in announcing that settlement terms had been reached.

A framed photo showed 13-year-old Diego Stolz, who was fatally wounded in an assault Sept. 16 at Landmark Middle School in Moreno Valley.  (Credit: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)
A framed photo showed 13-year-old Diego Stolz, who was fatally wounded in an assault Sept. 16 at Landmark Middle School in Moreno Valley. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Neil Gehlawat, another attorney representing Diego’s family, said he hopes this settlement is the first step toward a real shift toward widespread anti-harassment measures.

The two teenagers responsible for Diego’s death spent 47 days in juvenile custody after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury.

A judge refused to sentence them to more time, but the boys, who were 14 at the time, were ordered to attend an anger management program, according to the Associated Press.

In the wake of Diego’s death, Landmark Middle School’s principal at the time and two assistant principals were removed from their positions.

Diego’s family announced that his organs would be donated.

The Moreno Valley Unified School District did not comment on the settlement and told the AP it had no intention of doing so.

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