Parent files $1M lawsuit against school district over alleged bullying, negligence

The Newhall School District Office. Dan Watson/The Signal
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A Stevenson Ranch Elementary School parent filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Newhall School District on Wednesday, alleging the district failed to properly address a multiyear issue of bullying involving his sons.   

In the civil complaint filed at the Chatsworth courthouse, Stevenson Ranch resident Patrick Neville — on behalf of his minor son — alleges his son was harassed both physically and verbally by a fellow student multiple times over the last three years. But despite informing them of the problem a number of times, the lawsuit alleges, campus administrators continued to neglect their legal responsibilities to properly intervene and/or make a record of the alleged incidents between his son and his classmate over the years.   

“Not once was the district compliance officer notified nor were the parents informed of the right to file a formal complaint,” reads the complaint. “The (plaintiff) was therefore forced because of the principal’s, the school’s and thus the district’s negligence to endure further bullying and thus hundreds of hours of torture and shame.”  

Newhall School District board members and staff declined to comment in response to the filing on Wednesday, citing that they are not allowed to speak on pending litigation.   

Because of the “predatory nature” of the bullying that began in 2018, Neville’s fifth-grade son has “lived in constant fear of harm for himself and his younger brother (a first grader at Stevenson Ranch Elementary) since this bullying began as he has been assaulted physically and verbally by the other student and his younger brother has been threatened.” 

Because of the reported damage to his mental health — thereby interfering with his academic performance and time on the playground — the lawsuit reports that the claimants are seeking from the school district $500,000 for economic damages for lost future income due to decreased academic performance and another $500,000 for pain, suffering, embarrassment humiliation and inconvenience.    

When speaking with The Signal on Wednesday, Neville said it was not his original intent to sue when the alleged bullying began between 2018 and 2019 and that he had attempted to work with the district to solve the problem. However, he says they left him no choice, after “they’ve really done nothing,” except tell him they would be launching an investigation, the results of which have never been made available to him.  

“The bottom line is if I’m a parent … I’m trying to protect my kid and I need to say to myself: ‘Did I do everything I could do to protect my kid?’” said Neville during a phone interview. “And if I don’t go through with this lawsuit, then I really haven’t.”  

In the first instances of alleged harassment perpetuated by his classmate — also a fifth grader at Stevenson Ranch Elementary — Neville’s son reported to his father that his classmate had at one point stomped on his hand at school, scribbled out his face in their Cub Scouts monthly journal, and purposefully broke his race car at the troop’s Pinewood Derby.  

Neville’s son left the troop, and his father went to the school’s then-principal, according to the complaint.  

“The principal said, ‘OK, we’ll do something about keeping the kids apart.’ I think they had a little meeting between the two kids or whatever,” said Neville. Not only did the attacks not stop, the Stevenson Ranch father said, but also within a short time the alleged bully was calling his son names, making fun of his body shape.  

When distance learning began in March 2020, the alleged attacks seemed to subside, but the court document says the two boys were placed in the same virtual class despite their longstanding history, “prolonging his torture” and causing him daily stress/anxiety.  

When students returned to campus on or around August or September 2021, the incidents began again, the lawsuit alleges.  

The lawsuit alleges that on the first, third and fifth day of school Neville’s son was harassed by his aggressor, showing a “predatory nature of the bullying.” In one of those instances, the alleged bully also made a threat directed toward Neville’s first-grade son while at the school and was “directly witnessed by the principal” in the act.  

According to the complaint, the Stevenson Ranch Elementary school principals —  between 2018 and 2021 a new principal had been named at the school — both failed to follow established policy and notify the district compliance officer, as well as the parents who have “the right to request a formal investigation.”  

Additionally, the complaint reads that upon coming to the school for the first time in 2021, the second principal reportedly had “no record of the bullying that occurred in prior years.”  

“The plaintiff requested a formal investigation by the district compliance officer into the bullying incidents per school district in early September 2021,” reads the complaint. “That investigation was never completed.”  

“The reality is this: I’ve tried to do everything I can do and the school doesn’t want to do anything,” said Neville. “No one wants to deal with it … and I think the school/district now, in my opinion, is doing the old strategy of building up walls, ‘We’re this big institution …. Shoot whatever you want at us.’” 

“So I filed it, and so the district is being effectively sued by me and my kid … and I’m going to push it to the end,” he added.  

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