Attorneys for Glendale Unified are seeking dismissal of a lawsuit filed by parents of a boy who committed suicide on school grounds, stating in court papers that claims that bullying was a major factor in his death are meritless.
Fifteen-year-old Drew Ferraro jumped to his death in February 2012 from a three-story building at Crescenta Valley High School as other students looked on.
Drew's parents — John and Deana Ferraro — claim in the suit that Drew was bullied for his small size and demeanor and was "harassed for his attitude toward girls."
Before his death, they claim in the suit that Drew "feared the atmosphere that defendants failed to improve for him and from this, his anxiety attacks worsened, as did his progress at school."
But according to recently released documents, district attorneys contend that the Ferraros have failed to show how the district's response to complaints of bullying or harassment "were the proximate cause of Drew's suicide."
On Friday, the family's attorney, Stanley Lieber, said the summary judgment motion "is a common defense tactic" used to resolve cases or get them dismissed.
"I don't think they have a shot at it…we'll respond and we'll oppose it," Lieber added. I feel confident that we're not going to lose that motion."
Shortly into the investigation into Drew's death, Los Angeles Sheriff's Lt. John Corina said four suicide notes Drew left behind "didn't mention anything about being abused or being bullied."
"He gave a different reason for doing what he did," he added.
In recently released court depositions, school officials said that physical confrontations involving Drew and other students were not one-sided.
In her court deposition, former Crescenta Valley High Principal Michele Doll said Drew's parents were shown a video capturing the teenager "stomping on the other kid's head in the fight" that would lead to a five-day suspension for Drew in May 2011.
That incident began after a female student spit on Drew's backpack, according to court records. When Drew confronted her over spitting, she punched him, he "threw" her and then he punched a male friend of the girl who confronted him in the tussle.
In a second incident that occurred shortly after Drew returned to school from his suspension, a male student was suspended for hitting Drew in a fight in which Drew did not hit back, and was not suspended for, Doll said.
But according to Drew's sister's court deposition, three female students verbally and physically bullied Drew.
"Bullying is putting somebody else down, and that's what they did," Desiree Ferraro said.
In another deposition by Charlotte Sassounian, an assistant principal at Crescenta Valley High, she recalled a female student slapping Drew. In that incident, Drew responded by grabbing her drink and yelling at her. Later, Sassounian said she met with the students.
"I saw it as an argument between the two," she said.
Other court documents reveal Drew appeared to be dealing with depression.
According to a classmate who attended Crescenta Valley High School and elementary school with Drew, the 15-year-old said he was depressed in the eighth or ninth grades, and his friend was aware he was on medication.
Two days before Drew killed himself on campus, he sent a text message to a friend saying, "I honestly think we could use an apocalypse." When his friend replied, "Why do you want that?" he went on to say, "I don't want it, but it wouldn't be horrible. It would all just be over and I wouldn't be hurting anyone with my death," adding soon after, "I'm not being suicidal now. This is just me being lazy," according to court records.
When his mother came across those messages, she confronted her son about committing suicide.
"We talked about suicide being permanent and that it's something you can't take back and that he's loved and he has a lot of friends," Deana Ferraro said in a court deposition.
"'I know. I know. I'm not thinking about doing anything like that,'" she recalled Drew replying to her.
George Kappaz, a family therapist who worked with Drew, according to court records, said he did not anticipate Drew committing suicide.
"I had nothing to suggest that to me," Kappaz said in his deposition.
In another court document, a doctor named Jerrold Parrish who reportedly began working with Drew in November 2011 observed that Drew denied having a suicidal "plan" or "intent," but concluded Drew was having thoughts about death.
"You can think about death," Parrish said in the deposition. "That doesn't mean that you are going to walk out the door and kill yourself."
The hearing on the district's summary judgment motion is scheduled to be heard on July 14 in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.
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