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Assaulted student sues Claremont Unified School District, alleging it failed to protect against bullies

For the record:
6:19 p.m. Sept. 18, 2023: An earlier version of this article said the plaintiff was asking for $25,000 in monetary damages. There is not a specified amount of damages being sought.

A former student at El Roble Intermediate School has sued the Claremont Unified School District, alleging the district didn't protect him before or after the student was physically assaulted on campus by a bullying classmate.

In a statement, Raymond Babaian, the attorney representing the student, said what his client suffered "will leave a scar for the remainder of his life."

"What makes it worse is that this particular school was on notice of an ongoing pattern of similar actions, yet nothing was done to prevent it," Babaian said.

According to a complaint filed Sept.11 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the student was attacked and bullied three different times earlier this year.

A spokesperson said in a statement that the district is aware of the lawsuit and "takes all allegations seriously and is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all our students."

The statement did not address the lawsuit but said that "procedures are in place to address and respond to incidents that may occur on our campuses. Each CUSD staff member is dedicated to fostering a positive learning environment where all students feel safe and supported."

As a result of the bullying, the student's parents withdrew him from his final eighth-grade school year, the complaint states.

The complaint alleges the district and El Roble Intermediate School staff knew about the student's attacker's history of violence, outbursts and physical threats — including stealing the plaintiff's shoes and telling the plaintiff "he should die."

Read more: Bonta opens investigation into Chino Valley school district policy to notify parents about LGBTQ+ students

On May 23, the same bully informed his classmates that a pre-planned physical assault on the plaintiff would take place that day and they should watch and record the fight on their mobile devices, according to the complaint. The student experienced two more verbal and physical assaults on campus days later, prompting the student's parents to remove him from school, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint alleges that El Roble Intermediate School has ongoing issues with students fighting on campus, particularly pre-planned physical assaults that are instigated by a baseless rumor started by a peer.

When the bullying attacker confronted the student, he accused the plaintiff of speaking negatively about his sister, and when the plaintiff denied those claims the attacker shoved the plaintiff six times. The attacker continued to assault the student, punching him in the face four times, placing him in a headlock, wrestling him to the ground and punching him in the head four more times, according to the complaint.

A crowd of students watched the assault, but the complaint states EL Robles Intermediate School staff were nowhere to be found.

The attacker was given a one-week suspension, but the district failed to notify the plaintiff's mother of another incident of classmates trying to "jump" the student within the same day.

The student experienced two more verbal and physical assaults on campus days later.

According to the complaint, the mother of the assaulted student contacted the district numerous times and through multiple means "requesting a plan of action to keep her son safe at school," but that the district ignored the mother's concerns.

The student has sustained permanent and continuing injury to his nervous system, causing physical pain and mental suffering — including grief, worry and shock — according to the complaint.

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

Attorneys for the student say bullying should never be tolerated and active steps to prevent such acts must be taken immediately.

"Here, the administration knew about a serious problem at the school, yet it sat lazily by while known bullies entertained themselves and their ignorant friends by creating fights so they can share videos depicting the nonsense," Babaian said.

Read more: Family of a student killed in a bullying incident in Moreno Valley reaches $27-million settlement

Babaian added that this lawsuit isn't just about justice for his client, it's about "a system in need of serious change."

"As history has shown, the bully will only feel emboldened to escalate the gravity of his acts and the parents that once trusted the school will be left worrying about what may happen next, as no parent wants to be on the receiving end of the phone call that my client’s mother received or worse yet, like the parent of Diego Stolz," Babaian said, referring to a student who was fatally beaten by bullies in Moreno Valley in 2019.

This lawsuit was filed only days after the family of Stolz — who was bullied, beaten and fatally injured in an attack by classmates — reached a $27-million settlement with the Moreno Valley Unified School District.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.