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Valley Roundup | Palmdale

District Sued Over Teen's Death

March 22, 2000|JEFFREY GETTLEMAN

The mother of Stephan Corson, the 13-year-old boy killed in a schoolyard fight in Palmdale, filed a $10-million wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday against the Palmdale School District and the principal of the middle school where the fight occurred.

Mary Corson contends in her suit that her son's death was "the direct result of the combined failure of the district and the school to provide adequate staff . . . and to properly supervise the conduct of its students."

The suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court paints a picture of a chaotic classroom scene in which students were throwing paper at each other before a fight escalated between Stephan Corson and another eighth-grade boy.

A lawyer for the Palmdale School District, which earlier this month rejected a $10-million claim by Mary Corson, said the fight wasn't the district's fault.

"The school district has no liability for the spontaneous act of two boys," said Martin Carpenter, the district's lawyer. "There was no evidence of a dangerous environment or any indication something like this was going to happen."

The district also denies the allegation in Corson's lawsuit that school officials had discriminated against her son because he was black, Carpenter said.

Norman Estrada, principal of Juniper Intermediate School and a defendant in the suit, could not be reached for comment.

Stephan was killed Nov. 19 after the other boy slugged him in the face outside of class at Juniper Intermediate School.

Corson started the fight after a paper-throwing incident, witnesses told Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigators. But Stephan's family has said that the other boy, a 14-year-old whose name is being withheld because of his age, hit Stephan after a teacher's aide had stepped between the two.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office ruled in February that Stephan's death was a homicide, and prosecutors are still reviewing the case to determine whether to press charges against the other boy.

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