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Home / El Sereno Middle School

Autistic boy’s taunting suit against LAUSD settled

A settlement was reached in a lawsuit filed against Los Angeles Unified on behalf of a boy with autism who alleged his middle school principal and others did little after he complained that fellow students called him a “white, fat lollipop kid” and other names.

An attorney for the child, who is currently 18 years old and is identified only as John Doe in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, filed court papers on Monday with Judge Armen Tamzarian stating that the case was resolved. No terms were divulged.

The suit was filed in January 2019 on behalf of the boy by his mother, who is identified as Joan Doe. The suit alleged civil rights violations and negligence and sought unspecified damages. In their court papers, LAUSD lawyers denied the plaintiff’s allegations.

The boy began attending El Sereno Middle School in the fall of 2016 and his mother soon noticed that the school consisted almost entirely of students who might not understand her son’s condition or be receptive to having him there, the suit stated.

Shortly after the start of the school year, other students began taunting the boy with such comments as “white, fat, lollipop kid.” A month later, a student began touching him on the side, stomach, back and face while continually goading him, according to the suit.

After his mother complained about the other students’ behavior, a school counselor said “they would address the problem and the taunting and bullying would not happen anymore.”

But the bullying continued the next month and one student who had been warned to change his behavior told the plaintiff he was “going to get beat up for snitching,” the suit stated.

During a physical education class, some of the students who had previously been tormenting the boy opened his locker and threw his belongings all over the floor, according to his mother. In January 2017, five students accosted the boy and hit him in the back of his neck with a rock, the suit says.

Meetings with the school administration failed to bring about substantive changes, and by April 2017, the boy became reluctant to go to school out of fear of his safety, the suit stated.

The boy was on campus two months later when a fellow student reached down his pants but did not immediately report the incident because of the fear and anxiety the experience gave him, the suit stated. The boy who accosted the plaintiff was later arrested and disciplined, according to the suit.

That same month, the boy and his mother met with the school principal, Joyce Darra, who said she knew nothing about the bullying and expressed her sorrow, according to the suit. About a week later, the principal wrote a letter to the boy’s mother, explaining the discipline taken against the student who reached down her son’s pants, the suit stated.

“This letter failed to address any other incidents of bullying and failed to address any of the other students involved in the bullying of the plaintiff,” the suit stated.

As a result of his experiences with other students and the school, the boy’s personality has changed, and he has crying periods and “other emotional breakouts,” the suit stated.

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