The family of a 12-year-old boy who committed suicide after years of bullying, mostly over gender-related issues, have reached a $1 million settlement with the suburban Sacramento school district where the harassment occurred.
Ronin Shimizu took his own life last year after enduring what his family said were years of abuse that began when he was in the first grade in the Folsom Cordova Unified School District.
“He was taunted for being ‘gay,’ ‘girlie,’ ‘a fag,’ pushed out of the boys’ bathroom and told to use the girls’ bathroom, pushed down into the mud, doused with fruit cup in the cafeteria, and made to suffer other indignities,” his parents said in a mediation brief filed in the case.
Subsequent meetings with teachers and administrators yielded little if any action, the family said in the brief, which was provided by their attorney, Mark Meron.
The first-grade teacher told Shimizu’s parents, Danielle and Brandon Shimizu, that they should stop allowing him to use girls’ clothes for dress-up, the brief said.
In the second grade, he was pushed into a bathroom sink and split his lip, and in fifth grade, he was bullied over a decision to join the school’s cheerleading club, among other things.
Ronin was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but the school district did not respond to his parents’ request to establish a support program for him at school.
A year before he committed suicide, they enrolled him in a home-schooling program offered by the district.
After his death, the school district implemented an anti-bullying program and set up a Character Education and Bullying Prevention Task Force.
On Thursday, Superintendent Deborah Bettencourt said the district was committed to providing safe and caring environments for all children.
“This settlement is a fair resolution as our students, staff, and community continue to work together to learn from this episode and prevent another tragedy,” she said. “Our hearts continue to be with Ronin’s family, and we support their efforts to promote kindness, empathy, and positive school climate.”
A school district spokesman said the settlement was for $1 million, which would be paid by a public school insurance pool of which the district is a member.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Eric Beech)