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Arizona school district failed to police bullying on bus, parents claim

PHOENIX — An Arizona student’s parents accused an area school district of failing to protect him from abuse at the hands of his peers while he was being bused to a Tempe campus.

The ninth-grader, through his mother Danelle Mayfield, filed a notice of claim April 24 against the Maricopa Unified School District seeking compensation for the injuries he suffered while in its care.

District spokesman Mishell Terry confirmed to KTAR News 92.3 FM that the governing board received the notice but declined further comment due to pending litigation.

The student, who KTAR News will not be identifying because of his age, was the “victim of systematic bullying that gradually escalated to physical violence” while he rode a Maricopa district bus to the Austin Center for Exceptional Students’ Tempe campus.

The private special education school, also known as ACES, has four Valley campuses.

Maricopa Unified is one of more than 60 districts that sends students with emotional or intellectual disabilities to ACES schools for specialized learning.

The boy, who is in ninth grade, was in a individualized education program and “qualifies under autism.”

The notice of claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, alleged the student was physically assaulted or attacked while riding the bus starting Oct. 26. It also claimed that the district knew of the attacks and “did nothing to stop the bullying.”

An April 18 incident detailed in the notice said the student was physically attacked and assaulted on the bus and was punched repeatedly in the face. The student arrived home with a bloody mess on his face, it added.

According to the notice of claim, police said the atmosphere on the bus at the time of the attack was “chaotic and unsafe” with no supervision. Kids were also “jumping all over the seats and climbing over them while in transit,” it added.

The student’s damages were estimated to be around $2 million for injuries “sustained as a result of the district’s negligence.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon contributed to this report. 

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