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Lawsuit filed in 2008 Lasater suicide at Vasquez High

District officials say they just want to move forward

Posted: October 18, 2009 10:01 p.m.
Updated: October 19, 2009 6:00 a.m.
 

The report from the investigation into Jeremiah Lasater's suicide at Vasquez High School last year will remain confidential pending a lawsuit filed by the Lasater family against the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District, a school district official said.

"We're not able to talk about it because of the lawsuit," said Mark Distaso, school district board member, when asked about the status of the report.

Jeremiah Lasater killed himself in a Vasquez High School bathroom on Oct. 20, 2008. On the eve of the anniversary, school district officials stressed that the school and the community want to move forward from what they called a "painful day."

"People want to look forward and move ahead," Distaso said. "That's not to suggest that people don't remember what happened here last year."

There is no memorial planned by the district or by Vasquez High School, he said.

Lasater was a 14-year-old special education student at Vasquez High. Some in the community say he was picked on daily by other students.

The suicide exposed a deep division among Acton residents, with some claiming the problem was being "whitewashed" by the board and being "swept under the rug."

During an emotional special meeting of the school board just days after the suicide, staff members accused high-ranking members of the school of ignoring the constant bullying received by Lasater and other special-needs students.

School board officials have consistently said that Vasquez had a zero tolerance policy toward bullying and that no further changes were needed to stop bullying in the school.

"Part of the efforts we took to curb bullying occurred prior to the suicide," he said.

The school launched an investigation into Jeremiah Lasater's death less than two weeks after his suicide. Keenan and Associates, a risk management firm based in Torrance, was asked to piece together the events of the day while determining how prevalent bullying is on the Vasquez campus.

Keenan and Associates finished the report in early 2009, but when the Lasater family filed a lawsuit against the school district the report was held until the suit is settled, Distaso said.

Jeff Lasater, Jeremiah's father, was contacted for this story but on the advice of his lawyer, declined to make any comments related to the lawsuit.

Jeff Lasater has launched Project 51, a program dedicated to spreading awareness about the dangers of bullying and holding school districts accountable for the actions of bullies. Jeff Lasater claims those actions often go unpunished.

"You don't know how many times that the parents of the kids being bullied go to the schools to complain and nothing happens," he said.

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