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Law firm filing claim against school district on behalf of second grader attacked by dog in class

Posted: 7:41 PM, May 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-16 22:35:04Z
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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The law firm, Chain , Cohn and Stiles says they have filed a claim against the Bakersfield City School District and Kern County Superintendent of Schools on behalf of the family of an 8 year old that was attacked by a dog at Wayside Elementary School.

According to the law firm, the second grader, Leilani suffered severe lacerations and tearing to her face when she was attacked by one of two large dogs visiting her classroom on May 9. The family alleges in the claim that the dogs, which belonged to a volunteer reader from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office, failed to supervise the dogs in a safe manner.

This caused Leilani to suffer severe injuries. The family also alleges that the dog owner is strictly liable due to the California Civil code 3342 which is a warning to school officials and parents toward allowing animals near young students on school campuses.

“A school should know better than to allow dogs into a second grade classroom. No matter how gentle the dogs may be, their behavior can be unpredictable,” said Matthew C. Clark, attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Unfortunately for Leilani, she is likely to have lifelong facial and lip scarring, and vision difficulties. Let this be warning to schools, and to dog owners: Do not bring dogs onto school campuses. The risk is simply too great.”

Rob Meszaros, a spokesperson with the Kern County Superintendent of Schools commented on the claim.

We are aware of this unfortunate incident, but have not yet seen the claim mentioned in the CCS news release. Our office policy is to not comment on pending litigation, so we will not be discussing this publicly. Thanks for your understanding.

Irma Cervantes, a spokesperson with the Bakersfield City School District commented on the claim.

Our hearts go out to the student and family affected by the incident that occurred on May 9, 2019 at Wayside Elementary School. The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority.
When this incident occurred, school officials immediately sought medical attention for the child. After we ensured the student was receiving appropriate medical attention, the District promptly initiated an investigation into the circumstances and details of the incident.
Shortly after the investigation began, we were made aware that a claim was presented and litigation is pending. As a result, BCSD was advised by legal counsel to not discuss the details of the incident or the pending investigation.
While the district is not able to discuss the incident that occurred or the investigation, please be assured that we are continuing to prioritize the needs of our students. Accordingly, we are reaching out to Wayside Elementary parents to answer any questions they may have and to advise them that counseling services will be available to students who may have been affected by the incident. For information on BCSD’s board policies and procedures, please visit bcsd.com.

As for district policies concerning animals on campus, Cervantes directed us to the the board website.

The Governing Board recognizes that animals can be an effective teaching aid. In addition, instruction related to the care and treatment of animals may help teach students a sense of responsibility and promote the humane treatment of living creatures. Regardless, some animals pose an unacceptable risk of injury and/or disease transmission. The Governing Board believes priority should be given to safety and to the prevention of student injury and infection.

Safe animals may be brought to school for educational purposes, subject to rules and precautions specified in administrative regulations related to health, safety and sanitation. Teachers shall ensure that these rules and precautions are observed to protect the students, staff, and animals.
Seeing-eye dogs and service dogs may accompany students and staff at school as needed.
(cf. BP 601.14 - Nondiscrimination)
(cf. BP 601.14 - Nondiscrimination)

The district assumes no liability for the safety of animals voluntarily brought to school.
(cf. BP 603.22 - Health Care and Emergencies)