A Southern California school district agreed to pay $27 million to the family of a 13-year-old boy who was fatally attacked by his classmates during school lunch in what the family’s attorneys are saying is the largest school bullying settlement in U.S. history.
The wrongful death case, filed in 2020, was settled Wednesday.
Diego Stolz’s guardians sued the Moreno Valley Unified School District after he died in September of 2019, claiming school officials ignored complaints that he was being bullied at Landmark Middle School.
According to the lawsuit, Stolz was repeatedly sucker-punched in the head by two other teens. The violent incident was captured by another student on cellphone video.
In the video, released by attorneys, Stolz can be seen standing with his hands at his side when the boys started to swing at him. The family's attorneys said that was a "clear indication that he did not want to fight, and would not escalate the situation."
Stolz was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support after the fight. He sustained a traumatic brain injury and died nine days later.
The two boys involved in the assault, who were 14 at the time, admitted to charges of involuntary manslaughter, according to NBC News. They reportedly spent 47 days in juvenile custody and were ordered to undergo anger management therapy.
The lawsuit alleged this fatal encounter was not the first time Stolz had been physically or verbally assaulted at school despite the family’s complaints to school administrators.
Juana and Felipe Salcedos, Stolz’s aunt and uncle who raised him after his parents died, said he was bullied from his seventh grade year into the start of eighth grade.
On Sept. 12, 2019, the family said he went to his science teacher for help after he was sucker-punched in the head, according to the news release from the family’s attorneys. The teacher informed the assistant principal that day and she claimed she would review the security footage to find the perpetrators, but she did not.
The next day, the Salcedos’ adult daughter went with Stolz to the school to meet with the assistant principal. The administrator reportedly said she knew who the bullies were and promised to switch their schedules so they would no longer have classes with Stolz.
The following Monday, Stolz returned to school and the bullies had not been suspended nor were their schedules changed, the news release said. It was that same day Stolz was fatally beaten.
The family alleged in the lawsuit the school district had a “long history of student altercations on its campuses” and an equally long history of doing nothing about it.
“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,” their attorney said.
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