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California school district agrees to pay $27 million to settle suit over death of 13-year-old assaulted by fellow students

A Southern California school district has agreed to pay $27 million to settle a lawsuit by the family of an eighth grade boy who died after being assaulted by two other students at a middle school four years ago.

The settlement with the Moreno Valley Unified School District was announced Wednesday by lawyers for relatives of 13-year-old Diego Stolz, who was sucker-punched at Landmark Middle School in September 2019.

One of the teens struck the teenager in the head from behind and he fell, hitting his head against a pillar. The teens then continued punching Stolz, who died nine days later from a brain injury. The attack was recorded on video.

Dave Ring, an attorney for the Stolz family, said the family told the school that their nephew had been bullied and punched on several occasions, CBS Los Angeles reported. The administration promised the family the bullies would be suspended from the school if nothing happened, the station reported.

“The Friday before Diego was killed, Diego and his adult sister went and met with the assistant principal,” said Ring. “They never did anything. They just put it at the bottom of their stack and said we’ll deal with it later.”

Ring said the boy’s death would have been preventable if there was an anti-bullying policy in place at the school about 65 miles east of Los Angeles.

“Schools need to realize that bullying can never be tolerated and that any complaints of bullying and assault must be taken seriously,” Ring said in a news release.

School officials will not be commenting on the settlement, district spokesperson Anahi Velasco said in an email Wednesday. The district said previously that it changed its bullying reporting system and its training for employees. Also the school’s principal and vice principal were replaced.

The family also inspired a new piece of legislation authored by Eloise Reyes Gomez, which allows legal guardians to bring civil action in wrongful death cases, CBS Los Angeles reported.

The assailants, who were 14 at the time of the attack, entered the equivalent of guilty pleas in juvenile court to involuntary manslaughter and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury.

The teens spent 47 days in juvenile custody. A judge declined to sentence them to more jail time, but ordered that they undergo anger management therapy.

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