The family of 15-year-old Manny Perez is filing a lawsuit against the Orange Unified School District after the boy suffered fatal injuries in a golf cart crash on the El Modena High School campus.
Questions still remain how Manny, a special needs student with autism, was able to get behind the wheel of the golf cart on Monday.
At a tearful news conference Friday, Manny’s mother, Micaela Sanchez Corona, said through a translator that the school had contacted her to tell her Manny had been involved in an accident. She said she had no idea it was so severe.
When she got to the hospital, she said doctors told her the boy suffered a severe impact to his abdomen in the crash, and had internal bleeding. He was unconscious when she arrived, she said.
Corona described her son as a funny, loving boy, who had never gotten hurt at school before.
Robert Glassman, the family’s attorney, said the teen had the mental capacity of a 3- to 5-year-old. He said the school had a policy that aides were not supposed to touch the boy, but that something should have been done to stop the accident.
Glassman said they are seeking the school’s security footage to learn more about what led to Manny being in the cart, and why it was in an operational state, that anyone could just get in and drive.
Glassman said they are also investigating the school’s policies, and if they were violated during this incident.
Manny’s fellow El Modena High School students walked out of class on Thursday to express their sadness at the boy’s death, and frustration that he was in an unsafe situation at school.
“He died because of somebody else’s fault because they weren’t watching him,” student Victoria Ruiz said. “He had special needs, that was basically like you’re taking care of a baby that doesn’t know what it’s doing, thinks everything is a toy.”
In a statement to KTLA, the Orange Unified School District refuted allegations that Manny was alone at the time.
“He had two aides with him when he entered a parked golf cart. These aides immediately tried to persuade the student to exit the cart and tried to stop it as it sped forward and ultimately crashed,” the statement read in part.
The school district released another statement following the walkout.
“We understand how difficult this week has been for many of our students. We sympathize with their frustration and sadness. Frankly, this anxiety is being fueled by unfounded rumors and misinformation on social media, and that is unfortunate.”
No other students were injured during the incident, and the circumstances of the crash are under investigation.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Manny’s family with funeral expenses.