SEATTLE (AP) — Jurors have told the Snohomish School District to pay $1.3 million for negligence in failing to protect two high school girls stabbed in 2011 by a mentally disturbed classmate.
King County Superior Court jurors reached their verdict in a lawsuit brought by the families of April Lutz and Bekah Staudacher. They were freshmen at Snohomish High School when they were attacked in a school restroom.
Lutz was stabbed 13 times, including a knife blow that pierced her heart and left her in critical condition. Tuesday’s verdict focused on the injuries suffered by Lutz and her family, the Daily Herald of Everett reported.
Now 17, Lutz says she has forgiven her attacker but reminders of Oct. 24, 2011 linger. She told KOMO-TV her scarred leg hurts, her rib cage aches and she doesn’t like to go out alone.
“I can’t really go in crowds anymore,” she said. “I can’t go to a public bathroom on my own.”
Bekah Staudacher was slashed in the arm and stabbed in the back trying to protect her friend. School officials said her part of the lawsuit was previously settled out of court.
The district is continuously looking for ways to make its schools and campuses safer, said spokeswoman Kristin Foley.
“We trusted the jury process,” Foley said. “The jury made its decision. Now we move forward.”
In a 2012 plea agreement, the attacker was sentenced to serve 13 years in a combination of juvenile detention and adult prison.
The victims’ families sued after learning of records that showed school counselors were aware that the attacker had been having fantasies of violent assaults on others, but was allowed to return to school.
The girl told adults in spring 2011 that she was thinking about killing others or herself. She had been seeing a therapist and receiving medication for depression. She was expelled from school in April 2011 after she threatened to stab another student, court papers said.
School officials said the girl needed to get professional counseling before returning. According to court documents, she attended outpatient services at a hospital for about a week before the hospital decided she could resume classes. She continued to see a therapist, with her last visit about three weeks before the assaults, court papers said.
“April and her friend were attacked in what parents and students are led to believe is a safe place — their high school — and the verdict proves the school district patently failed to take the most basic common sense precautions to protect the girls from a foreseeable danger,” Lutz’s lawyer Sim Osborn said Wednesday in a statement.
“All of the warning signs were there, but no one opened their eyes, communicated with one another or took steps to safeguard students from a deeply disturbed classmate.”
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