Diego Stolz was a skinny 13-year-old boy attending Landmark Middle School in Moreno Valley, California. Last month, he was sucker-punched by a couple of classmates on school grounds. He fell and hit his head on a concrete pillar and never regained consciousness. Nine days later the hospital removed him from life support. At a press conference earlier today, attorney Dave Ring announced the family was filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the school.

When I wrote about Diego last month, I assumed this was a case of bullying which no one at the school could have predicted or prevented. That was tragic enough. But according to Dave Ring, the story is much, much worse than that. Not only did the school know about the bullying, they had specifically promised to do something about it just days before the attack.

“This school knew that Diego was targeted to be beat[en] up,” Ring said. He continued, “They were told by three different people days before this happened. They were told by a teacher. They were told by Diego’s adult sister, Jasmine, and they were told by Diego himself. And they allowed this to happen. That’s what’s unbelievably devastating to this family, that this could have been prevented.”

Ring said that Diego had been bullied by these same boys the previous year. His mother (who is actually his aunt, because his mother and father had both died) went to the school when he was in 7th grade to talk to someone about the bullying. As Diego began his 8th-grade year, the bullying started up again.

“On Thursday, September 12th, Diego was accosted by these boys and a teacher learned about it,” Ring said. He added, “And the teacher saw how upset Diego was and the teacher went and told an assistant principal that something was going on, that they needed to pull the security footage, and that they needed to do something because this kid was being physically confronted. And the administration didn’t do anything that day.

“The next day, Friday, September 13th, Jasmine, Diego’s adult sister, brings Diego into the school first thing in the morning and meets with this same assistant principle. And Diego goes back with the assistant principal for 20 or more minutes and tells her what was going on. And the assistant principal comes out and tells Jasmine, the adult sister, ‘We’re going to take care of this. We’re going to change the classes of these bullies and we’re going to suspend them.’ And she said ‘I want Diego to go home…I don’t want him to come to school today. I want him to go home and relax and he can come back Monday and there’ll be a fresh start.’

“And Diego did go home with his older sister that day. And he was visibly relieved. This was finally going to be handled and taken care of. And he had a good weekend. And he came back Monday and the school had done nothing.” That Monday was the day of the fatal attack.

The school district sent out a statement saying it disagrees with the claim made during the family’s press conference announcing the lawsuit:

“Our deepest sympathies go out to Diego’s family as we share their grief over this tragic incident. This is still an active criminal case and the District is fully cooperating with law enforcement,” district spokeswoman Anahi Velasco said.

“We are aware that the family of Diego is holding a news conference announcing a lawsuit. We fully respect and appreciate the family’s right to do so. The district will not comment publicly on the details of pending litigation. We respectfully disagree with assertions made in this lawsuit that the district is liable for the death of Diego,” she said.

Obviously the school district is going to mount some sort of defense but if even half of what Ring said is true, I don’t see how a jury could fail to fault the district for this fatal failure to protect a student on school grounds after being warned.

It’s worth noting that a very similar bullying incident happened two weeks ago at this same Middle School, this time the victim and the two attackers were girls. The victim’s mother claims her daughter was punched nine times and that the same two girls had bullied her daughter two weeks before the assault. Here’s a local news report on that attack from Oct 16:

Two more clips to share on this. If you scroll down there’s a local report on the lawsuit which conveys the story, but the real emotional impact of this was brought home by Diego’s sister Jasmine who described wanting to stand up for him. Maybe it’s because I have a son about this age in Middle School but it was hard to get through it without choking up. The full press conference video is available at Fox News, but here’s a bit of what she said: