Arbitrator: GPS shares blame for student’s injuries | News

By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor
9 Min Read

A court arbitrator has ruled that Gilbert Public Schools is partially responsible for the injuries a student incurred after a fight at a campus library, though the district says it’s excluded from financial liability.

The total damage awarded to the student was $37,077, of which GPS is responsible to cover 45% of it, according to the arbitrator’s decision was filed March 11.

“With regard to this case specifically, Gilbert Public Schools was not included as part of the arbitration process, as prior to arbitration all potential claims against the district were dismissed by a judge in November 2023,” spokeswoman Dawn Antestenis said in an email last week.

“It is our understanding that at that point, Gilbert Public Schools is considered, in the arbitration proceedings, a non-party at fault, and because the claims against the district were dismissed there was no reason to incur additional costs for the district associated with participating in arbitration, as GPS could not be economically impacted by the outcome.

“Any evidence associated with GPS was not shared or considered by the arbitrator.”

Although the district was successful in getting dropped from the suit prior to the March 1 arbitration hearing, the arbitrator said that after considering the applicable rules, statutes and case law he determined that “fault can be appropriately allocated to Gilbert Public Schools.”

The victim’s mother, Ann Marie Coyolt-Waun, sued the district in March 2023 after her notice of claim for $200,000 was rejected. The suit also named the student who had the altercation with her son and his parents.

The incident occurred in April 2022 between Jack Filion, who was then-16 years old, and Andres “Andy” Coyolt-Waun, then-15.

The two teens were playing poker with fake chips in the Gilbert High School library during a lunch break with two other students, 16 and 15, a police report stated.

According to the suit, Jack attacked Andy after losing a hand of cards to him, punching him in the face and pushing him against a bookshelf.

Police said that Jack initiated the assault after Andy called him a “retard” and a “pussy.” There was name-calling exchanged between the two teens.

Jack hit Andy “with a right hook and a closed fist to the left jaw line,” police said.

When Andy stood up after he was hit, he was pushed back, causing him to fall to the ground, police added.

“Andre stood back up and hit back, which caused “a standing punching match back and forth,” according to the report.

In an interview later, Jack told a detective that he had been bullied as a freshman and in previous years at other schools, which included physical assaults, theft of his lunch money and name calling.

Both teens were special-needs students.

At the end of the confrontation both tried to hug it out over the issue, which could be seen on video, police said, adding that Jack “is remorseful of what occurred and seeking counseling with his parents for his anger issues and coping skills.”

Police noted a small cut on the inside of Andy’s left jaw area and said he appeared to have an “altered mental state, similar to concussion symptoms.”

“Jack was the clear physical aggressor in the video,” police said, noting that Jack did not report any injuries to himself.

Police also spoke with the special education teacher and with the school psychologist who agreed that Jack has “the culpable mental state to understand his actions.”

Police determined that there was “no indication that Jack was threatened in any way to justify his use of force” and that the “presence of name-calling does not justify Jack’s actions.”

Coyolt-Waun took her son to hospital for stitches in his mouth, according to the report.

She later notified police that Andy suffered a fractured jaw, a broke nose and a concussion. The teen’s jaw was wired shut in order to heal, she told police.

The lawsuit alleged that the district breached its duty to exercise reasonable care to protect Andy from reasonably foreseeable harm.

It further claimed that due to the district’s negligence, “Andy has suffered physical harm, humiliation, pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish and other damages.”

The district’s claim adjuster in 2022 stated that an investigation into the incident showed that the “school had no prior warning and therefore could not have foreseen the spontaneous action of the other student” and found no liability on the district’s part.

The adjuster added that there was no evidence that the district or its employees acted in an unreasonable manner before or after the injury.

The attorney for the Filions also blamed the district, stating both teens “had special needs that Gilbert High School was required to address, including regular supervision.”

And on the day of the fight, the boys’ regular supervisor had a lunch appointment and left “the boys in the library without involving another suitable adult to oversee their interactions,” attorney R. Corey Hill said in a response.

He said that Andy and others had “engaged in a rather cruel pattern of harassing, bullying, and ridiculing Jack, calling his names, and making fun of him in front of other students.”

Despite the Filions notifying teachers and the school of the “inappropriate behavior,” “they failed to adequately address and prevent the situation,” Hill said. Hill did not respond to a request for comment.

“It is important to state and reassure our students and families that we take the safety and well-being of all of our students very seriously, including minimizing any opportunities for altercations between students,” Antestenis said.

“We do not take lightly our role in keeping students and staff safe while on our campuses, and we are committed to an extensive range of safety and security initiatives across our district to promote safety.”

She pointed out the district’s security camera system is designed to any criminal activity and discourage negative behavior.

“The people we have on our campuses are also key, with highly trained administrative teams, social workers, school resource officers, security guards, counselors, and many more professionals on site every day, whose job is to actively promote safe and supportive learning environments for our students, alongside our educators,” she said. 

“The reality is of course, that despite all these efforts it is still possible for incidents between students to occur.  Should an incident occur, we work alongside our parents and families to resolve the issue appropriately, working with district policies and procedures, and external agencies when necessary.” 

The arbitrator found that Jack and his parents incurred both general and specific damages – $23,077 for special damages and $14,000 for general damages.

The arbitrator allocated 5% of the fault to Andy and 50% to Jack, who was responsible for $11,538 for medical expenses and $7,000 for pain and suffering.

The non-prevailing party has 20 calendar days to file an appeal.

Source link
By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor , – Vivrr Local Results in news of type article , 2024-03-27 07:00:00
Tags: news

Share this Article
Leave a comment