Family awarded $27MIL bullying settlement after death of 13-year-old

Biggest bullying settlement ever sees California family awarded $27M after school let vile tormentors beat boy, 13, to death: Killers got NO jail time

  • The family of Diego Stolz, 13, were awarded the massive sum nearly four years after the death of the middle schooler
  • In 2021, the teenage boys who admitted to killing Diego were given a probation sentence by a juvenile court judge
  • Diego’s family sued the school district for not acting on the information they had received about Diego’s bullies 

A California family has been awarded a record $27 million after school staff failed to prevent a 13 year-old boy being beaten to death by bullies at school.  

The wrongful death suit filed by the family of Diego Stolz was settled by Moreno Valley Unified School District on Wednesday and is the largest bullying payout in history. 

Diego had been picked-on by his bullies the week before his death but the school’s principal failed to suspend them as promised, leaving them free to kill days later.

Diego died in 2019 after being beaten by two of his bullies at Landmark Middle School in Moreno Valley near Riverside, California

Harrowing footage showed him being shoved into a concrete pillar and banging his head, before the bullies continued to rain blows on him while he was unconscious. Diego was rushed to hospital and died days later. 

His tearaway tormentors, who have never been identified, subsequently pleaded guilty to manslaughter but walked away with no prison sentences.

The wrongful-death suit was filed against the Moreno Valley Unified School District on behalf of Stolz’s legal guardians, his aunt and uncle, Juana and Felipe Salcedo.

In a press release, the family’s attorney said: ‘The family will forever be heartbroken by the death of Diego but they hope this case brings about change in school districts across the country.’

‘Schools need to realize that bullying can never be tolerated and that any complaints of bullying and assault must be taken seriously. Diego’s death was preventable if this school had simply prioritized an anti-bullying policy.’

Diego died in September 2019 days after being punched in the head from behind by a 14-year-old boy and subsequently hitting his head against a pillar.

The two boys then continued punching Stolz as he lay on the ground. He never regained consciousness and died nine days later from a brain injury.

The distraught family then learned that Stolz’s killers would receive no jail time.

In 2020, the boys entered the equivalent of guilty pleas in juvenile court to charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury.

In 2021, the Riverside County Superior Court judge ruled that the teenage boys would not stay behind bars, but instead were ordered to undergo anger management therapy as a condition of probation.

After 47 days in juvenile custody, the teens were released into the custody of their parents.

At the sentencing, Juana Salcedo delivered an impact statement through a translator that said she believed school administrators had let Diego down after she had raised him not to fight back with bullies.

‘It’s difficult to put into words many emotions and the pain in my heart,’ she said.

‘I will continue to fight for my son. I wouldn’t have allowed my son to beat up somebody else.’

The Salcedo family (pictured here in 2019) was awarded the largest bullying settlement ever on Wednesday following a suit brought against the Moreno Valley Unified School Distict

'It's difficult to put into words many emotions and the pain in my heart,' said Diego's aunt and guardian Juana Salcedo, who raised Diego after he was orphaned

Phone camera footage of the fatal incident shows Diego getting sucker punched, hitting his head against a concrete pillar and continuing to receive a beating as he lies on the ground unconscious

Landmark Middle School in Moreno Valley, California near Riverside, where the fatal schoolyard fight took place in September of 2019

Assistant Principal Kamilah O'Connor had assured Diego's family that his bullies would be suspended after. They weren't and were subsequently able to conduct the fatal assault against Diego. O'Connor was replaced at the middle school, though still appears to work for the district

Neil Gehlaway, the attorney representing Diego’s family, also pinned much of the blame for the child’s death on the middle school’s administrators.

‘His death was entirely preventable, if administrators at his middle school has done their jobs,’ he said.

‘On the Thursday prior to the fatal assault, which was on Monday, Diego was assaulted by one of the same bullies at the school.’

He said the family reported the bullying to then-Assistant Principal Kamilah O’Connor, who assured them that the boys would be suspended.

But the first day back at school after the attack, the two boys had not been suspended and Diego was fatally assaulted by one of them.

‘She certainly made a promise to the family and did not follow through with that,’ Gehlawat said.

The attorney added that a complete breakdown in communication between school administrators led to the circumstances surrounding Diego’s death.

‘One of the assistant principals had information about Diego being bullied and assaulted, and she did not share that information with her fellow administrators, the other vice principal and the principal at the school, and on the day Diego was fatally assaulted she was not at school that day,’ he said.

The suit that yielded Wednesday’s massive settlement alleged that the Moreno Valley Unified School District failed to act after administrators were told Stolz was being bullied. 

Six-weeks after the incident that proved to be fatal, O’Connor, and the school’s then principal, Scott Walker, were replaced, though O’Connor still appears to work for the school district.

As part of the settlement, Gehlaway said the school district agreed to additional training, as well as new protocols related to how teachers and administrators respond to bullying.

Attorneys for the victim’s family called the dollar sum they received is ‘the largest bullying settlement in the United States.’

In September of 2020, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 2445, which was ‘inspired by Diego’s tragic death and clarified that legal guardians have standing to bring suit in civil claims involving a minor whose death may have stemmed from a wrongful or negligent act, but only if the child’s natural parents are deceased,’ according to the press release.

Moreno Valley Unified School District Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora said in the wake of Diego's tragic death that he would implement change to prevent another event like this one from occurring

From the time that he was a young child, Stolz was raised by his aunt and uncle after the deaths of his mother and father. 

Following Stolz’s death in 2019, the Moreno Valley school district superintendent, Martinrx Kedziora, promised there would be change that came to the district to prevent similarly tragic situations from occurring.

‘We have to be more thoughtful, more responsive, more empathetic,’ he said.

‘When you meet with a parent and they say ‘I don’t want my kid to be the next Diego,’ you can say ‘I agree,’ but our actions speak louder than our words.’


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