$90,000 settlement approved by judge in teen’s bullying lawsuit against LAUSD

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

A judge has approved a $90,000 settlement on behalf of a 17-year-old Tarzana girl who alleged she was not protected at a Los Angeles Unified School District middle school from bullying by classmates, including an attack that left her with a concussion in 2020.

The plaintiff is identified only as Z.S. in her Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against the district and Jennifer Yoo, then the principal of Gaspar de Portola Middle School. The suit was filed on her behalf in March 2021 by her father, alleging negligence, negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention and negligent supervision and sought unspecified damages.

On Thursday, Judge Lee S. Arian gave his nod to a gross settlement of $90,000 in which the plaintiff will receive $27,545 after attorneys’ fees and other costs are deducted. The judge had to approve the accord because the girl is a minor.

A judgment for negligence was signed by the judge on Jan. 5 in favor of Z.S. and against Yoo. In their court papers, attorneys for the LAUSD and Yoo maintained that Z.S. alleged “numerous unsubstantiated” bullying experiences and that she repeatedly was unable to identify her purported assailants.

Z.S. attended de Portola Middle School in Tarzana from 2018-20 and according to the complaint, several older students began harassing her in the fall of 2018. An LAUSD employee told Z.S.’s parents that she should try to stay away from those older students because they were bullies, but took no action to prevent their behavior, the suit alleged.

In March 2019, a group of students followed Z.S. into a school bathroom, banged on a door and threatened to attack her, according to the suit. The plaintiff and her parents reported the incident to an LAUSD employee and the de Portola assistant principal, but once again, nothing was done to identify the perpetrators and punish them or to protect her from future attacks, the suit alleged.

In October 2019, other students battered Z.S. while she was in a school bathroom, leaving her with physical and emotional damage, according to the suit, which further said the assailants wore hoods on their heads and she could not identify them.

Another Portola administrator who knew about the bathroom attack said after an investigation that he could not identify those involved and described the incident in a report as a “threat,” the suit stated.

The administrator “deliberately did not undertake a meaningful investigation and allowed the students who battered Z.S. to go unpunished, thereby endangering Z.S., further,” the lawsuit alleged.

In January 2020, a student identified by the assistant principal as someone with a history of misbehavior and violence at school threw an object at Z.S. that hit her head during lunch, but once again nothing was done to discipline the girl’s assailant, the suit alleges.

The plaintiff and her parents subsequently met with the assistant principal and expressed their concerns, and the assistant principal said he would investigate but did not precisely say what he would do, according to the suit.

In March 2020, while walking to class, someone punched the girl on top of her head, causing her to fall to the ground and black out, the suit stated.

She was unable to get up for several minutes and was later taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with a concussion, according to the complaint, which further alleged the school administration knew or should have known that her assailants were prone to violent behavior and that she had been repeatedly bullied prior to the March 2020 attack.

“Nevertheless, defendants took no steps to protect Z.S,” the suit alleged. ” Instead, they allowed her to continue to be vulnerable to attack.”

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.