Student sues CUSD over alleged assault, bullying, negligence at El Roble

A 13-year-old boy has sued Claremont Unified School District over an alleged pattern of physical attacks he endured while a student at El Roble Intermediate School. Courier photo/Steven Felschundneff

by Steven Felschundneff |

A former El Roble Intermediate School student is suing Claremont Unified School District claiming that school officials failed to protect him from repeated bullying and physical attacks from fellow students.

The lawsuit was filed September 11 on behalf of the 13-year-old by his mother, alleging assault and battery, dangerous condition of public property, negligent supervision and negligent hiring, training, and retention. The plaintiff seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

“Claremont Unified School District is aware of the lawsuit filed by [the minor child], represented by his parent/guardian,” wrote CUSD Communications Director Elaine Kong in an email. “The District takes all allegations seriously and is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all our students. Due to the ongoing legal proceedings and in consideration of the privacy rights of minors, limited information can be shared at this time.”

“I want to emphasize that we take all matters concerning our students seriously,” CUSD Superintendent Jim Elsasser told the Courier, also through email. “However, we cannot comment further on this specific case due to the ongoing legal matter.”

The lawsuit claims a boy with a history of violent behavior allegedly bullied the plaintiff by stealing his shoes, telling the boy he should die, and threatening members of the boy’s Little League team, and that the boy named in the suit had also threatened or intimidated other El Roble students.

It further states that the alleged perpetrator’s “history and propensity for violence” is known by the boy’s own parents and El Roble employees.

According to the lawsuit, on May 23, 2023 the boy named in the suit “executed a pre-planned physical assault and/or attack” on the boy who is suing the district. The alleged attacker informed other students of the exact location and time the fight would take place and instructed other students to “be present to watch and/or record the fight on their mobile devices.”

“At approximately 9:00am, [the alleged attacker] approached PLAINTIFF stating that PLAINTIFF had spoken negatively about his sister. PLAINTIFF, confused, denied the allegation and unsuccessfully attempted to de-escalate the situation all while other students laughed with their cell phones in hand, ready to record the altercation for their enjoyment,” the complaint read.

The alleged attacker pushed the boy six times, forcing him backwards up a flight of stairs, hit the boy in the face four times, before placing him in a headlock and wrestling him to the ground where the boy was punched another four times, according to the lawsuit. The suit states that school employees were absent during the fight in spite of the large number of students that witnessed it. At the very end when the boy was on the ground in a fetal position one staffer “can be seen slowly, casually walking up to the fight,” according to the complaint.

A 13-year-old boy has sued Claremont Unified School District over an alleged pattern of physical attacks he endured while a student at El Roble Intermediate School. Courier photo/Steven Felschundneff

The suit claims another three unnamed students then tried to “jump” the boy later that same day, an assault that school district employees failed to report to the victim’s mother.

It goes on to state the boy’s attacker received one week suspension for the fight and the school refused to change the victim’s schedule so he would not have to be in the same classroom with his assailant. The three boys who tried to jump the plaintiff received no punishment, according to the lawsuit.

The school was supposed to file a “no-contact contract” between the boy and his alleged attackers, however the suit states that contract was never “implemented and/or enforced.”

When the plaintiff returned to school he was threatened by one of his attackers, and when his mother reported the threats an unnamed CUSD employee informed her that the student had simply not received the no-contact contract, according to the lawsuit.

“PLAINTIFF was left feeling scared, threatened, and unprotected in a place he was legally obligated to remain at for the remainder of the school day,” reads the complaint.

The suit describes continued threats and physical attacks the boy endured until his mother made the “difficult decision” to withdraw her son from El Roble before the beginning of his eighth grade year.

“During all relevant times, DEFENDANTS, and each of them, including DISTRICT’S employees and/or staff, provided no supervision and/or provided ineffective supervision by failing to take all reasonable steps or implement reasonable safeguards to prevent pre planned acts of violence and/or timely intervene when confronted with acts of violence against a student,” according to the lawsuit.

Perhaps the suit’s most troubling claim is that the plaintiff’s experience at El Roble is far from unique. It paints a picture of a campus where students harass classmates perceived as weak, and where pre-planned fights are common.

“El Roble Intermediate School had and/or has an ongoing issue with student’s fighting on campus and, in particular, a rampant trend of students pre-planning physical assaults and/or attacks by approaching another unsuspecting student with a baseless rumor that said student spoke disparagingly about someone’s mother, sister, etc. The attacker in this trend knows that the rumor is false and presents it for the sole purpose of instigating a physical fight in front of a crowd,” according to the lawsuit.

“District policy prioritizes the safety and security of all students and staff,” Kong told the Courier in an email. “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 this is an ongoing legal matter, the District cannot comment further on the case’s specifics.”

The parties are due in Superior Court in Downtown Los Angeles for case management conference on January 9, 2024.


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