The family of a 15-year-old girl filed a claim Monday against the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District alleging the district could have prevented a brutal caught-on-video beating on school campus.
Following months of bullying, Savanna Blakkan was repeatedly punched and shoved to the ground by another student just feet away from the Yucaipa High School's administration building in May, and ended up suffering a severe concussion, pain and emotional trauma, attorney Brian Claypool of the Claypool Law Firm said at a Tuesday news conference.
A video provided to KTLA shows a girl identified as Blakkan standing with another girl at a school. They appear to be in conversation before the girl is seen repeatedly striking Blakkan, pushing her onto the ground and continuing to beat her before a person pulls her off Blakkan.
“When you drop your kids off at school, you expect them to be safe and secure," Claypool said. "You don’t expect, as a parent, that your kids are walking into a UFC fighting ring on the school premises.”
Blakkan said that her alleged attacker, another student at the school, had been following her, pushing her and yelling at her along with other students prior to the incident.
“She grabbed me from my backpack and she kinda just started yelling at me," the teenager said, with her friends and family standing behind her. "She swung on me three times and I ended up on the floor, and she swung on me 10 more times and hit me worse.”
Blakkan's attorney said the girl seen beating his client in the video was suspended after the incident, when she should have been expelled.
“She nearly killed my client and she got two days of suspension,” Claypool said.
The teenager described a large crowd watching the beating, and several people walking past her as she lay on the floor, including an assistant vice principal and other teachers.
“Those administrators are heartless and that terrible conduct on the part of the school shows that they really don’t care about students that are being bullied and physically assaulted,” Claypool said.
Blakkan said that she was seeing a therapist after she started having suicidal thoughts because of the bullying, and ended up signing a "suicide contract," which she told school officials about. The teenager explained that the attack at school only made it harder for her emotionally and physically.
“I have nightmares,” she said. “I try to sleep as much as I can to avoid the day.”
The teenager's mother, Crystal Blakkan, said she reported the bullying to school officials on several occasions and "they didn’t take it seriously.”
The mother said she felt helpless after the beating and said, “there was nothing I could do to stop this attack from happening.”
She described watching the video of the attack along with other family members. “We can’t sleep because of it,” the mother said.
The teenager said she will no longer attend any school in the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District.
Claypool said this is the sixth bullying case against the district that his firm has worked on—four of which included assault.
This attack comes after the 2017 bullying and subsequent suicide of another Yucaipa High School student, Rosalie Alivia, said Claypool, who also represented Alivia in a lawsuit.
“They simply do not take bullying seriously and kids continue to get injured and beaten up at their schools,” Claypool said. "The Yucaipa-Calimesa Unified School District has created a culture at their schools that promotes bullying."
The attorney said that schools in the district lack adequate security to deal with on-campus incidents and don't have proper protocols in place to address bullying. Blakkan's family intends to sue the district.
Th Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District released a written statement addressing the claim, saying that it's aware of the "reported altercation."
"We take incidents of this nature extremely seriously. We responded according to our policies for student discipline, and have been working in cooperation with law-enforcement. Student safety is our first priority. We will continue to look into this matter, our policies, and our procedures to ensure that we are maintaining safe school environments for all of our students," the district's statement read.