STEM victims claim injury, wrongful death against school and district

Officials mishandled warning signs, claim alleges

Jessica Gibbs
jgibbs@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/3/20

Victims of the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting, including the parents of slain senior Kendrick Castillo, have begun the process of suing the school and the Douglas County School District for …

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STEM victims claim injury, wrongful death against school and district

Officials mishandled warning signs, claim alleges

Posted

Victims of the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting, including the parents of slain senior Kendrick Castillo, have begun the process of suing the school and the Douglas County School District for Kendrick's death and trauma students sustained from the incident. The families also allege the school and district mishandled threats to STEM that pointed to a looming attack.

The Castillo family's claim, first reported by The Denver Post, seeks $500,000 in damages for “the wrongful death of their son.” The Post reported former STEM student Brenden Bialy and two other families of STEM students also filed claims.

Bialy, Kendrick Castillo and classmate Joshua Jones rushed one of the alleged shooters at the onset of the May 7 shooting. Kendrick Castillo was fatally shot in the confrontation. Eight more students were injured.

STEM students Devon Erickson, then 18, and Alec McKinney, 16, were arrested the day of the shooting for allegedly plotting the attack and opening fire in a British literature class. They face 44 felony charges each for their suspected roles in the shooting.

The victims' claims, officially called “notice of claims,” are written notices to government agencies that someone believes the public entity caused personal injury or a wrongful death.

John Castillo, Kendrick's father, told Colorado Community Media he could not comment on the claim at this time. He said he is focused on keeping Kendrick's memory alive through honors the teen has received since his death, but he believes the claims will shed light on what led to the tragedy.

“It's about trying to make our schools and communities safer by obtaining truths and details about what happened on May 7,” he said.

The Castillos' attorney, Dan Caplis, said the family could not offer interviews at this stage in the process, but he provided news media a prepared statement and a copy of the family's claim.

“Mr. and Mrs. Castillo are determined to do everything in their power to prevent Colorado students and teachers from being shot to death in their school. That includes using the legal process to reveal the full truth about what led up to the attack that took the life of their heroic son Kendrick,” the statement reads.

The Castillo family's claim states STEM School Highlands Ranch and the Douglas County School District failed to protect Kendrick and the school by not addressing multiple warning signs.

As of April 29, 2019, an internet user based in Littleton edited the school's Wikipedia profile to say `Do they work? We shall see,” in reference to the school's anti-suicide and school shooting prevention programs described on the webpage.

A parent also warned of a future school shooting at STEM, but the district and charter school “failed to take appropriate and necessary action to protect Kendrick Castillo and other students, faculty and staff at STEM School Highlands Ranch,” the claim states.

The district did not provide “the appropriate individuals” or STEM School Highlands Ranch with information regarding Erickson and McKinney, and both the school and district failed to notice warning signs of future violent behavior from each of the teen suspects, the claim states.

The district and STEM didn't prevent the suspects from bringing weapons into the school and allowed Erickson to come and go from the classroom, according to the Castillos' claim.

A spokeswoman for the Douglas County School District said the district had no comment on the claims. A spokeswoman for STEM said the school disagrees with the claims but cannot comment further while the claims are active.

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