A California family reached a $27 million settlement with the San Moreno Valley Unified School District on Wednesday, four years after 13-year-old Diego Stolz was punched to death at his middle school on Sept. 16, 2019.
Two 14-year-old boys, who were 13 at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter and assault in juvenile court, and a Riverside County judge sentenced them to 47 days in jail plus community service and therapy.
The Stolz family's legal counsel at Taylor & Ring LLP described Wednesday's settlement as the largest ever "in a school bullying case in the United States."
"Diego was, by all accounts, the sweetest nicest kid you could ever meet. When the bullies confronted him yet again (for no good reason), Diego put his hands to his side because he was told to never fight at school. The two bullies sucker-punched him and killed him," his attorneys wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday.
The wrongful death lawsuit that the Stolz family filed against the school district said Diego complained to school administrators about the bullying and that they did not take appropriate action to stop it.
"The school had promised Diego and his family the prior week that the boys would be disciplined and suspended. They weren't," Taylor & Ring said in their statement. "The following Monday when Diego came to his middle school, they killed him. We hope this case is a [wake-up] call to all schools in the U.S. – take your anti-bullying policies seriously, and when a student complains, take action. You have a duty to protect kids at school."
The entire incident was captured on video and shared across social media. The juvenile bullies punched Diego once from behind, causing him to fall and hit his head against a concrete pillar, at which point they continued to punch him.
Diego died of a brain injury nine days later.
"Regarding anti-bullying efforts … there have been many changes that have happened these past few years," Moreno Valley Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Martinrex Kedziora said in a Wednesday letter to family and school staff. "A few of those changes include a district-wide centralized online bullying form; distribution of classroom posters regarding the definition of bullying, types of bullying and how to report it; distribution of business cards with a QR code to report bullying; shortcuts on student Chromebooks that will go directly to the online bullying form; and updates of district and school websites to feature videos, links and resources regarding bullying."
Kedziora continued, "On behalf of the Moreno Valley Unified School District Board of Education, we want you to know that we truly care about each and every student and staff member in our district. The news of Diego’s death was not something we took lightly. The safety and well-being of our students will remain our top priority."
The sheriff’s department announced in September 2019 that Stolz’s family had donated his organs "to transform this tragedy into the gift of life for other children."
Talia Kaplan and the Associated Press contributed to this report.