The family of Diego Stolz is suing the Moreno Valley Unified School District over claims it ignored the bullying that took Diego’s life.
Thanks to the approval of new legislation, a couple in Moreno Valley decided to proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit against the Moreno Valley Unified School District over a fatal incident that claimed the life of their nephew, 13-year-old Diego Stolz, at one of the middle schools.
The suit, which was filed by Felipe and Juana Salcedo, was filed last October against MVUSD. Originally, the suit was rejected by a Riverside County Superior Court judge “because state law did not specify that legal guardians have standing in wrongful death suits.” However, just last week “Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2445, which clarifies that legal guardians have standing in civil claims involving a minor whose death may have stemmed from a wrongful or negligent act, but only if the child’s natural parents are deceased.” Both Diego’s mother and father died years before him.
When commenting on the suit, David Ring, the attorney representing the couple, said:
“Diego’s aunt and uncle raised him, and yet the law prevented them from bringing a lawsuit after he was tragically killed…But now that unfair law has been changed, and Diego’s guardians can bring a case in court…This lawsuit will prove that the school district ignored serious bullying and assaults on its campuses for many years…Diego’s death was totally preventable if real anti-bullying policies had been put in place.”
Ring noted the lawsuit has been refiled in Los Angeles County Superior Court and while he has not confirmed the size of the damage award the couple is seeking, last October the suit was seeking $100 million.
What happened, though? What were the circumstances surrounding Diego’s death? For starters, the suit alleges Diego was “consistently bullied by two to four boys, starting while he was in seventh grade at Landmark Middle School.” According to Ring, “the mistreatment began with verbal insults and taking of the victim’s belongings.” Then, when Diego began eighth grade in the fall of 2019, the abuse only escalated. As a result, Diego’s aunt filed complaint after complaint with Landmark school officials during the 2018-2019 school year and the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. However, each time her complaints fell on deaf ears.
Then, on September 12, 2019, Diego was cornered by one of his bullies and punched in the chest. He fled to the safety of a science teacher and told them what had happened. Ring said, “This teacher saw his emotional state and knew there was something wrong, but there was nothing done.” Ring also noted vice-principal Kamilah O’Connor failed to do anything to stop the bullying. Later that day, Diego told his aunt what happened, “and she asked her adult daughter, Jazmin Salcedo, to take the boy to school the next day and address the matter with administrators.” According to Ring, Salcedo, Diego, and O’Connor met and talked for about 20 minutes. After the meeting, “O’Connor told Jazmin that she had learned the names of the bullies involved and she would suspend them for three days, starting Monday, Sept. 16…She also said their class schedules would be changed so that they would not be in Diego’s class anymore,” according to court documents. However, when Diego returned to school the next week, two of his bullies “caught him in front of the building during lunch recess.”
Video evidence of the confrontation was caught on mobile phones belonging to students that witnessed what transpired. The footage shows “one boy standing in Diego’s face, while he stood limply.” Then he punched Diego in the mouth, and the second bully blindsided Diego “with another punch, causing him to fall and strike his head on a concrete pillar.”
Tragically, Diego “suffered major trauma and was pronounced brain dead and taken off life support a week later.” The two assailants are currently “facing manslaughter charges in Riverside Juvenile Dependency Court.” Because they are both underage, their identities have not been made public.