School district ordered to pay teen $1 million after failing to protect her from bullies

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By Asiya Ali

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A California school district has been commanded by a jury to pay $1 million in damages for failing to protect a middle school student who was bullied for nearly a year.

As reported by the Los Angles Times, the Los Angeles County Superior Court jury ruled last week that The El Segundo Unified School District was inattentive and negligent in training and supervising staff in safeguarding the then-13-year-old Eleri Irons.

Court documents show that the lawsuit was filed in April 2019 and that Irons was bullied by three different students between November 2017 to June 2018.

The document states that in one particular incident, a student started a petition titled "Let’s kill Eleri Irons" - which the teachers knew about but failed to inform Irons' parents - which resulted in the teen having "significant physical and psychological trauma".

Attorney Christa Ramey alleged in a news release that Irons - who is now 18 - suffered from "PTSD, cut herself, and sought refuge in the school nurse’s office nearly every lunch break."

The attorney explained that when the young girl's parents asked the school's officials for help in tackling the bullying, staff "dismissed the concerns as drama over a teen love triangle".

"Every teacher, counselor, and administrator who touched this case failed not only my client but also the aggressors and every other student at the school," Ramey said. "Bullying is to be taken seriously and the administrators are culpable when they don’t stop it."

The former principal of the district's middle school, Melissa Gooden - who is now an executive director of human resources with the district - allegedly lied about notifying the police of the petition in June 2018, per New York Post.

"She didn’t call the police that day. She attempted to make it seem like they did everything they could, but in reality, during the entire year, they didn’t do anything," Ramey said. "They never investigated a single claim of bullying made by my client."

According to Ramey, that same day Irons' dad called Gooden to express his anger over not being notified about the death threats his daughter received. He scheduled a meeting with the principal the next day to discuss matters.

A police report was then filed on June 14 - reportedly minutes before the teenager's dad was scheduled to meet with administrators about the incident. However, no one was arrested and the students involved were reportedly suspended.

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Credit: JKalani / Alamy

In light of the court ruling, El Segundo Superintendent Melissa Moore said the district has now taken measures to implement two student safety positions at elementary schools and designed a district-wide safety plan.

In a statement to the New York Post, Moore explained: "As a school district, we respect the ruling of the court and acknowledge the findings of the lawsuit."

"The next steps are up to our legal counsel. As we move forward, we are committed to self-improvement and doing everything we can to prevent bullying in our schools," she added.

Irons, who is now in college, said in a statement obtained by the LA Times that she remained traumatized but has forgiven her main bully.

"I am so thankful that I have been able to share my experience and to actually be taken seriously so that the next time a child asks for help, the school will address it the way they should have for me," she wrote.

Featured image credit: tommaso altamura / Alamy

School district ordered to pay teen $1 million after failing to protect her from bullies

vt-author-image

By Asiya Ali

Article saved!Article saved!

A California school district has been commanded by a jury to pay $1 million in damages for failing to protect a middle school student who was bullied for nearly a year.

As reported by the Los Angles Times, the Los Angeles County Superior Court jury ruled last week that The El Segundo Unified School District was inattentive and negligent in training and supervising staff in safeguarding the then-13-year-old Eleri Irons.

Court documents show that the lawsuit was filed in April 2019 and that Irons was bullied by three different students between November 2017 to June 2018.

The document states that in one particular incident, a student started a petition titled "Let’s kill Eleri Irons" - which the teachers knew about but failed to inform Irons' parents - which resulted in the teen having "significant physical and psychological trauma".

Attorney Christa Ramey alleged in a news release that Irons - who is now 18 - suffered from "PTSD, cut herself, and sought refuge in the school nurse’s office nearly every lunch break."

The attorney explained that when the young girl's parents asked the school's officials for help in tackling the bullying, staff "dismissed the concerns as drama over a teen love triangle".

"Every teacher, counselor, and administrator who touched this case failed not only my client but also the aggressors and every other student at the school," Ramey said. "Bullying is to be taken seriously and the administrators are culpable when they don’t stop it."

The former principal of the district's middle school, Melissa Gooden - who is now an executive director of human resources with the district - allegedly lied about notifying the police of the petition in June 2018, per New York Post.

"She didn’t call the police that day. She attempted to make it seem like they did everything they could, but in reality, during the entire year, they didn’t do anything," Ramey said. "They never investigated a single claim of bullying made by my client."

According to Ramey, that same day Irons' dad called Gooden to express his anger over not being notified about the death threats his daughter received. He scheduled a meeting with the principal the next day to discuss matters.

A police report was then filed on June 14 - reportedly minutes before the teenager's dad was scheduled to meet with administrators about the incident. However, no one was arrested and the students involved were reportedly suspended.

wp-image-1263167228 size-full
Credit: JKalani / Alamy

In light of the court ruling, El Segundo Superintendent Melissa Moore said the district has now taken measures to implement two student safety positions at elementary schools and designed a district-wide safety plan.

In a statement to the New York Post, Moore explained: "As a school district, we respect the ruling of the court and acknowledge the findings of the lawsuit."

"The next steps are up to our legal counsel. As we move forward, we are committed to self-improvement and doing everything we can to prevent bullying in our schools," she added.

Irons, who is now in college, said in a statement obtained by the LA Times that she remained traumatized but has forgiven her main bully.

"I am so thankful that I have been able to share my experience and to actually be taken seriously so that the next time a child asks for help, the school will address it the way they should have for me," she wrote.

Featured image credit: tommaso altamura / Alamy