Students file claims over Palo Alto USD's handling of violent and racist bullying

In one of the attacks, a victim went to the emergency room with a bleeding ear.

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Saturday, November 13, 2021
Palo Alto students file claims of violent, racist bullying
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Six students and their parents have filed personal injury claims against Palo Alto Unified School District after reporting on-campus attacks and more.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Six students at Gunn High School and their parents have filed personal injury claims against Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) after reporting on-campus attacks and more.

Court documents detail incidents of violent and racist bullying, including the use of the N-word and some in the group being targeted beyond school grounds.

Seth Rosenberg, the attorney representing the families, shared a redacted version of the court filings. Documents explain one of the boys is Black, and others are of European or Middle Eastern descent.

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The claim chronicles incidents since the start of the school year, and has since been sent to the school district.

On-campus, Friday, Gunn HS Senior Tyler Lin weighed in on whether bullying is an issue there.

"I think any amount of bullying is a problem," Lin told ABC7 News. "But, how significant of a problem that is, and what to do about it? I can't really say."

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Santa Clara University Psychology Professor Dr. Thomas Plante said there has been an uptick in bullying across the board.

"There's a lot of things that kids are frustrated about," Dr. Plante said. "Their life, like all of our lives, have been turned upside down over the last couple of years."

He added, "And we're seeing models of frustration aggression all around us."

According to the claim, following an attack inside a Gunn High bathroom, one victim went to the emergency room with a bleeding ear. Another, to the school nurse after being hit in the neck.

Shortly after that assault, four to five students are said to have "ambushed" another boy in a locker room as he was getting ready for P.E.

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The document explains the students, "Not only pummeled _____ with fists and kicks, but recorded it on video and shared it on social media far and wide."

Among the list of injuries suffered by the boy, a hematoma.

Terry Lin, a Gunn HS parent with no ties to the situation told ABC7 News, "We kind of live in a society, or community where we're somewhat sheltered. We did not really expect this would actually happen in this community, in this school... And yet, it happens."

The claim says the aggressors "were suspended for a short period of time, then "sought retribution for being 'snitched on.'"

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The behavior was recorded beyond school grounds.

Documents point to an incident on October 9, 2021, at California's Great America. When some of the boys boarded a rollercoaster, "one of the assailants saw them and stood at the gate next to where _____ was sitting. That student loudly exclaimed: 'He's a rat,' 'he got me suspended,' and 'I should f*** you up right now.'"

The claim went on to say, "The Rollercoaster started and a student who previously assaulted started banging on the gate door to threaten _______. After the ride, the boy got a bigger group together and searched for _________, but luckily did not find them."

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Police say the 16-year-old victim had threatened to stop a bully, and a few days later, that bully killed him.

Attorney Rosenberg said the group of victims was out of school for two weeks, as the harassment and intimidation continued. He said it's impacted the academics and mental health of the children.

"However, though we have requested it, the school has not excused those absences even though they were due to legitimate safety concerns," Rosenberg said.

In a statement, Gunn HS Principal Wendy Stratton said:

"PAUSD takes reports of bullying and harassment seriously. The site has worked with the involved students and families utilizing the Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP). One request for a transfer was granted, although the recipient declined unless his friends were also transferred. The aggressors were immediately disciplined consistent with protocols and protective measures are in place."

The group of students and their parents maintain administrators have failed to protect them.

Rosenberg shared, "We are awaiting PAUSD response. The school district has 45 days from November 1 to accept or reject our claims. Our attorney, Seth Rosenberg, can provide clarification on the PAUSD process moving forward. Our focus as parents is keeping our children safe."