A California school district was ordered to pay $1 million for failing to protect a middle school student who was “bullied, tormented and verbally assaulted” by fellow teens who started a petition to end her life.
A jury ruled that the El Segundo Unified School District was negligent in training and supervising its workers, who then failed to safeguard 13-year-old Eleri Irons from three bullies between November 2017 to June 2018, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
A lawsuit filed in 2019 reportedly alleged Irons “suffered PTSD, cut herself and sought refuge in the school nurse’s office nearly every lunch break.”
The torture began when teachers failed to act after finding out about a petition that was circulating in school entitled “Let’s kill Eleri Irons.”
When Irons’ parents did ask school officials for help, they “dismissed the concerns as drama over a teen love triangle,” the teen’s attorney Christa Ramey told the paper.
Former El Segundo Middle School principal Principal Melissa Gooden, who is now an executive director of human resources with the district, allegedly lied about calling police as soon as she learned of the death threat in June 2018, Ramey reportedly said.
“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, according to the article. “They never investigated a single claim of bullying made by my client.”
A police report was filed a day after the petition came to light and moments before administrators met with Irons’ parents, according to the article. No one was arrested and the students involved were reportedly suspended.
“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 in a statement published by the LA Times. “Bullying is to be taken seriously and the administrators are culpable when they don’t stop it.”
El Segundo Superintendent Melissa Moore said the district, which enrolls about 3,500 students, added two new student safety positions at two elementary schools and implemented a district-wide safety plan.
“As a school district, we respect the ruling of the court and acknowledge the findings of the lawsuit,” Moore said in a statement to The Post.
“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.”
Ramey did not immediately responded to a request for comment.
Irons, now 18, reportedly said in a statement 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.”