Family of boy in brutal bullying attack caught on video sues Los Angeles school, saying he suffered permanent brain damage

August 14, 2019, 3:16 PM

The family of a teenage boy is suing the charter school that he attended over a year after a bullying attack that left him with what they say are “permanent traumatic brain and cervical injuries.”

The January 2018 attack at Animo Westside Middle School and the staff’s ensuing response were captured on surveillance video.

The video shows the victim, who was 12 and in sixth grade at the time, being attacked by a 14-year-old eighth-grader, a student who the victim’s attorney, Ben Meiselas, says had a “prior history of violence towards others.”

Other students are seen in the video crowding around the boy and his attacker. A school staff member is also seen pausing at the scene and walking away without stepping in.

The boy drifted in and out of consciousness and suffered from seizures during the attack and after it ended, the complaint claims.

The attacker later tried to assist the 12-year-old boy, the video shows, after he grew “nervous that he had killed” the boy, Meiselas said.

The boy’s mother, who asked that both their identities remain confidential, arrived 20 minutes after the attack, and it was only then that emergency services were called at her request, according to the filing.

The mother didn’t initially know that her son had been attacked, the complaint alleges, saying that she initially thought he had only experienced a seizure before seeing the attack on the surveillance tape.

When she requested the video later, she was allegedly given video from another day and a short clip of the attack that was “deceptively edited,” Meiselas said.

The charter school is connected to the Los Angeles Unified School District, but the organization that oversees the school is Green Dot, according to ABC affiliate KABC.

ABC News’ requests for comment from the school itself, the school’s principal and staff were not immediately returned.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided funding to Green Dot, told ABC News, "We believe all schools should provide a safe and welcoming environment for students and should have no tolerance for bullying or violence of any kind. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided funding to Green Dot schools but is not involved in their management."

In a statement to KABC, Green Dot said, in part, "Green Dot is committed to working to ensure all our students receive a quality education in a safe environment where they can learn and grow. We are naturally concerned by the incident portrayed in media coverage."

The complaint says that the boy has “regressed socially, emotionally [and] academically” as a result of the trauma and that he now suffers from post-traumatic sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy.

Dr. Morteza Shamsnia, a chief neurologist at Tulane Medical School, said in the lawsuit that the boy will likely have to seek treatment for the effects of the attack for the rest of his life.

The complaint alleges that a separate incident, in which the same aggressor pushed another student into the tires of a school bus, occurred before the 12-year-old boy was attacked.

Meiselas claims the school knew about this incident and “failed to take adequate action in order to protect the other students at the school.”

The complaint says the school implemented a “proposed safety plan” for two months before “reneging” on it prior to the videotaped incident. It claims the attacker returned to the same afterschool program where the January 2018 attack took place and was never expelled.

“The school district cited the need for understanding and sensitivity towards the aggressor,” the complaint says.

“The staff did everything wrong, every step of the way, and showed a callous disregard for my 12-year-old client’s life and well-being,” said Meiselas. “The School and Green Dot miserably failed my client, who will now suffer permanent brain damage for the rest of his life. This is unacceptable and every adult working for this school should be haunted by their conduct for the rest of their lives.”