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STUDENT V. SANTA MONICA-MALIBU UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

SANTA MONICA – CASE BRIEF

Student v. Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District

Counsel for Student: Parents

Representative for School: Ben Drati

Decided by: Los Angeles Superior Court jury

Date of Decision: October, 2022

ISSUES:

  • Did school officials fail to act after suspicions of abuse were raised by district employees?

FACTS OF THE CASE:

  • Twin brothers were autistic and non-verbal, but there were signs that something was wrong, including unusually aggressive behavior by the boys.
  • A district employee used corporal punishment including physical restraint and battery against the two special-needs students when they were in second grade.
  • A bus driver witnessed when school staff physically restrained the boys and punished them by putting hand sanitizer on their cuts, according to court documents.

CONCLUSION:-

  • School officials failed to act after suspicions of abuse were raised by district employees.

Rationale:-

– The incident was witnessed by school bus driver and was reported to the officials accordingly.

– All students have an “inalienable right to attend campuses which are safe, secure, and peaceful.” Cal. Const. Art. I § 28(f)(1).

– Students with disabilities are uniquely vulnerable to abuse and harassment, making it reasonably foreseeable that a lack of supervision on the part of school employees could lead to harm. See, e.g., Jennifer C. v. Los Angeles Unified School District, 168 Cal.App.4th 1320, 1327-28 (2008); M.W. v. Panama Buena Vista School District, 110 Cal.App.4th 508, 520 (2003).

Source: https://www.rhdtlaw.com/the-abcs-of-school-district-liability/

– A teacher or school official’s excessive and unreasonable corporal punishment of a student violates the student’s Fourth Amendment rights and gives rise to a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Preschooler II v. Clark County School Board of Trustees, 479 F.3d 1175 (9th Cir. 2007); Doe ex rel. Doe v. Hawaii Dept. of Education, 334 F.3d 906 (9th Cir. 2003).

– According to the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act there are 39 classifications of “mandated reporters.” They range from teachers, to instructional aides, classified employees of any public school, office administrators and coaches. As the holder of a credential, certificate or permit that authorizes one to work with or observe children, a person is required to report every instance of child abuse or suspected abuse. The only people who may be exempt from this rule are volunteers.

Source: https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/california-school-s-duty-to-report-abuse-30061

REMEDIES/ORDER:-

  • School is required to pay Forty-Five Million dollars for failing to stop abuse.

RELEVANT INFORMATION:-

– definition of “Abuse” under California’s Child Abuse Laws

Sexual abuse or exploitation as listed by incident in 11165.1; neglect; willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment; any physical injury inflicted other than by accidental means. Penal Code §11164, et seq., Assembly Bill No. 1179, Chapter 127

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