A brutal school fight. Only on KCAL News, see what one teacher was -- and was not -- doing during all of it.
Critical questions involving former school police, an attorney and a now-enraged family. Those are questions surrounding a shocking beating case that are being brought before the entire Los Angeles Unified School District.
A 14-year-old female student was beaten in front of her teacher. The family believes the teacher could have and should have stopped it. But it's far more complicated than that.
Some believe the district itself put both teacher and student in a dangerous situation that was inevitable, and could inevitably happen again.
"She was a new student there to that school. It was great," said the 14-year-old girl's mother. "There's a lot of school activities now that they offer, a lot of different stuff."
The typical "stuff": The sights and sounds of school abruptly becoming blurry, clouding the scene at Sun Valley Middle School, and suddenly sounding different not far from these footsteps, as other feet and other fists started falling.
It all began on the basketball courts back in April. A teacher is escorting a 14-year-old female student after class. Two of her female classmates come running up and attack.
The teacher appears to try to pull one of the attackers off, then raises his arms appearing to try to block them, but then appears to step away.
The punches and kicks to the head then continue. By one count she suffers 35 blows.
"It's very heartbreaking, and it makes me upset every time I watch it," said the girl's mother.
The mother didn't want to further upset her daughter by being identified.
"I'm at a loss of words, this is disgusting," she said.
And her immediate disgust isn't just with the girls -- it's with the teacher.
"It's frustrating that the teacher's there," she said. "He could have at least stopped this. What if the girls would've been stabbing her and I would've been planning a funeral? He didn't do enough. He could've done more."
The teacher, Evan Diamond, says he's never seen the video captured by another student that was posted all over social media.
"I don't want to see it, it was a terrible experience," said Diamond.
We're just wondering why you didn't stop the fight.
"I don't want to speak on the matter," said Diamond.
But he did speak to the family.
"I've been talking to her mom, too, and she was supportive," said Diamond.
What did the teacher say to you?
"He said 'I tried to do what I could, I cannot touch the students, and I would like more training on how to restrain a child, or what can I do in this situation?'" said the girl's mother. "I said 'You guys need to do better!'"
KCAL News spent week after week reaching out to United Teachers Los Angeles by both phone and by email, over and over again, to get their position on school safety and these fights, and we never got an answer.
As for those at the top of LAUSD, we were ultimately told that Superintendent Alberto Carvalho would not discuss the policies either, or the beating of one of their own students, and about what's being done to prevent others.
Are you shocked to see this? To see what the teacher does and does not do?
"I am shocked," said Los Angeles School Police Association Vice President and former school police officer William Etue.
Etue says he's shocked, but not surprised.
"They knew that this was coming, that there would be a spike in these incidents," said Etue. "All of this was foreseeable."
Foreseeable, he says, because from 2020 to 2022, the L.A. Unified School Board defunded its police force, dramatically cutting its budget from $73 million ($72,533,821) down to $59 million ($59,149,486) -- nearly 20 percent (18.45%). The number of sworn officers was also cut by 33 percent. The entire police department was cut from 468 to 321 employees.
So you actually blame this incident, in part, to the defunding of LAUSD Police?
"Yes," said Etue.
Did you talk in front of the board?
"Several times," said Etue.
Did you warn them something like this could happen?
"Yeah," said Etue.
More than once?
"Yes, for the better part of probably five or six months," said Etue.
Months, he says, warning board members like Kelly Gonez, who was and still was just days ago part of the defunding charge. In her district, Sun Valley Middle School lost its officer long before this fight happened.
Would it have made a difference if there was an officer stationed at that school?
"Huge difference," said William Etue.
Could it have saved this girl from getting hurt?
"Oh, I believe so," said Etue.
Do you, in part, blame Kelly Gonez directly?
"Absolutely," said Etue.
"It's top-to-bottom failure," said family attorney Ara Aroustamian.
Not only from top to bottom, but failure, the family's attorney says, from beginning to end. Weeks before the fight, they say, they warned the school an attack was imminent. They say the school tried mediation, and did little else, claiming fights like this just never happen.
But data that took us months to finally obtain from LAUSD shows that from 2021 through December 2022, there were district-wide reports of 1,447 batteries, 258 assaults with a deadly weapon and 96 fights.
Here at Sun Valley Middle, there was a report of assault with a deadly weapon, and another report of battery.
Do you think the school district has been covering up incidents like these?
"For every one incident, I promise you there are hundreds if not thousands of other incidents that have not been reported," said Ara Aroustamian.
Now the family is reporting back to the district that they intend to file suit, citing "staff's negligence" for "witnessing the attack without any attempt to stop or intervene," overall saying the system just "failed."
You feel badly for the girl?
"Of course I do," said the teacher.
Did he fail your daughter?
"Yes," said the girl's mother.
"We're looking at potentially assault with a deadly weapon incident," said William Etue.
"There is intrinsic harm for them when there are police present on campus," Kelly Gonez said during an October 2021 Board of Education teleconference.
Brutal failures caught on camera that the family hopes are never seen, never heard of, again.
"And they always say 'If you see something, say something.' My daughter said something, and they did nothing," said the girl's mother. "That's what the problem was."
Now the problem for everyone may be the lack of clarity here on how these incidents should be handled in the future.
The Los Angeles Unified School District gave us a statement that says, in part: "Los Angeles Unified takes the safety and well-being of our students very seriously. School staff who supervise students are expected to intervene appropriately."
In addition, the district sent us their recent safety plan that repeats "Staff who supervise students should intervene promptly with suspected acts of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, hazing or bullying."
But neither statement gives us much clarity. We couldn't find anything that says exactly what teachers should do when it gets brutal and physical in front of them.
Again, LAUSD would not discuss those points.
School Board Member Kelly Gonez, who represents Sun Valley, wouldn't speak with us either. Gonez's spokesperson even hung up on me at one point.
The 14-year-old victim in that report was taken to a hospital and, we're told, at least physically recovered. But her mother worries about how this will affect her in the future.
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