Santa Rosa City Schools failed to protect student attacked at Rincon Valley Middle, lawsuit alleges

A 13-year-old victim sustained “substantial physical and emotional injuries,” according to the suit.|

A new lawsuit alleges Santa Rosa City Schools failed to protect a 13-year-old Rincon Valley Middle School student who was attacked on campus by another student who had been expelled for fighting.

The attack occurred just before the end of last school year, on June 2, 2022. The 13-year-old victim is not named. According to the suit, she received “substantial physical and emotional injuries.”

The civil complaint was filed April 4 in Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa by personal injury attorney Seth I. Rosenberg. The suit names the district and as many as 50 unidentified co-defendants including employees at Rincon Valley Middle School, which is in the Santa Rosa City Schools District.

Santa Rosa City Schools spokeswoman Vanessa Wedderburn said district officials had no comment on the case.

According to the suit, the district was aware that a former student who had been expelled for fighting was “bothering and threatening” to harm the girl.

On the day of the assault, the girl told a teacher that she was concerned the student was on campus and was going to physically attack her, according to the complaint.

The teacher “failed to take appropriate action,” the suit says.

The student did end up attacking the 13-year-old in an area of the school that her lawyers allege should have been under supervision.

The attack was recorded and disseminated by students, which added to the girl’s suffering, the complaint says.

According to police reports obtained by The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa Police were called by a school official for an attack matching that description at 1:14 p.m.

According to the reports, a video of the fight was circulating on social media and was witnessed by a crowd of students as well as a teacher. Medical aid was declined.

The next morning, police received a call from a family member of the victim and were able to file a more complete report, leading to an investigation and arrest of one minor, said Lt. Christopher Mahurin, a spokesperson for the department.

The suit says the district and its employees failed to reasonably investigate threats and prevent the bullying experienced by the plaintiff. It also alleges they failed to perform their public duties under California’s educational code.

The complaint argues that the district failed to provide reasonable supervision and lists the district’s controversial 2020 decision to discontinue the school resource officer program as a factor.

The suit is the first litigation against the county’s largest district dealing with student-on-student violence since a Montgomery High student was fatally stabbed on March 1, which led to an eruption in calls for improved school safety across Sonoma County.

The suit seeks compensation for general damages, medical and incidental expenses and legal costs with interest.

Rosenberg, the girl’s attorney, and her court-appointed guardian, Justin Voight, did not respond to Press Democrat requests for comment.

You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8531 or On Twitter @alana_minkler.

Alana Minkler

Education Reporter

The world is filled with stories that inspire compassion, wonder, laughs and even tears. As a Press Democrat reporter covering education, it’s my goal to give others a voice to share these stories.

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