The family of Ronin Shimizu accepted a $1 million settlement from the Folsom/Cordova Unified School District on Sept. 3 for the failure to protect their son from pervasive bullying, which led him to commit suicide at age 12 on Dec. 3, 2014.
School bullies targeted Shimizu with anti-gay attacks for being a male cheerleader, his creative interests and just for being who he was. Shimizu was the longtime target of physical and psychological bullying, which continued even after he changed school. His parents eventually were led to initiate home schooling.
Following Shimizu’s death, District Superintendent Deborah Bettancourt expressed her condolences and outlined changes she and the district had implemented following the tragedy.
District schools now educate students about the pain and trauma that bullying causes and have taken steps to intervene when such behavior is brought to attention. In addition, teachers will be trained in how to recognize and prevent bullying, parents will be required to review bullying prohibitions with their children and a complaint and investigation procedure will ensure that bullies are disciplined.
The Shimizu family has founded the organization Ronin’s Voice, which they hope will provide support and assistance to victims of bullying and help parents of bullied students get their school districts to provide the safe school environment that statutes, including California’s recently adopted Seth’s Law, require.
Mark Merin, the Sacramento civil rights attorney who represented the Shimizu family in negotiations with the school district, said that while no amount of money can compensate for the tremendous loss the family experienced, the settlement emphasizes the obligations incumbent on all school districts and personnel to protect students from bullying and provide a safe environment for the education of children in their care.
“We wish to thank the thousands of kind people who expressed their condolences, offered their personal support and interest in seeking reform against school bullying,” said Shimizu’s parents, Brandon and Danielle. “We also appreciate the assistance and support provided to us by the Florin Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.”