Family accepts $1 mil. claim against school district after suicide

The family of 12-year-old Ronin Shimizu, who died by suicide Dec. 3, 2014, accepted $1 million to settle their claim against the Folsom Cordova Unified School District “for failing to protect their son … from pervasive bullying which led him to,” a statement said.

Ronin was targeted by school bullies with “anti-gay attacks for being a male cheerleader, for his creative interests, and just for being who he was, forcing him, at times, out of the boy’s bathroom and telling him to use the girl’s bathroom, or pushing him down into the mud,” the statement said.

He was bullied prior to entering the third grade at Russell Ranch Elementary School in Folsom, Calif., a city in Sacramento County. The “physical and psychological bullying continued even as he changed school in an attempt to avoid the negative treatment from peers which, ultimately, led his parents to remove him from Folsom Middle School and to initiate home schooling,” the statement said.

Following Ronin’s death, District Superintendent Deborah Bettencourt “expressed her condolences and outlined changes she and the district had implemented following Ronin’s death. Going forward, district schools will educate students about the pain and trauma that bullying causes and take steps to intervene when such behavior is brought to their attention, will train teachers in how to recognize and prevent bullying, will require parents to review bullying prohibitions with their children, and will implement a complaint and investigation procedure to insure that bullies are disciplined. Recent films such as ‘Bully and A Girl Like Her,’ which have been shown and viewed widely highlight the harm that bullying causes and has led to an increasing awareness of this behavior which has moved into cyberspace and caused several students to take their own lives,” the statement said.

The Shimizu family has founded Ronin’s Voice, an organization they plan to use to provide support to victims of bullying and “to help parents of bullied students get their school districts to provide the safe school environment which statutes, including California’s recently adopted Seth’s Law, require.”

Mark Merin, the civil rights attorney who represented the Shimizu family in negotiations with the district, said that “the settlement emphasizes the obligations incumbent on all school districts and personnel to protect students from bullying and to provide a safe environment for the education of children in their care.”

Ronin’s parents, Brandon and Danielle Shimizu, said, “We wish to thank the thousands of kind people who expressed their condolences, offered their personal support and interest in seeking reform against school bullying.”

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