Lookout Update: Judge dismisses part of lawsuit filed by family of Aptos High stabbing victim

Officers stand guard outside of Aptos High School on Aug. 31, 2021
Officers stand guard outside Aptos High School on Aug. 31, 2021, following the stabbing of a student.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Claims filed against administrators at Aptos High School and the Pajaro Valley Unified School District by the parents of the 17-year-old who died after the August 2021 stabbing can proceed, Judge Timothy Volkmann ruled, though he dismissed a claim filed by the victim’s sister.

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A sig for Lookout Update on the Aptos High stabbing death

A Santa Cruz County Superior Court judge has dismissed part of the lawsuit filed by the family of the 17-year-old who was fatally stabbed at Aptos High School in August 2021.

The family’s attorney, Charles “Tony” Piccuta, said the lawsuit — filed in July 2022 against administrators at the school and at the Pajaro Valley Unified School District — is still advancing, but only with claims filed by the parents of the victim.

The judge dismissed a claim filed by Alexa Sarabia Aguilar, the sister of the victim, Gerardo Sarabia, for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Sarabia Aguilar arrived at the school to pick up her brother and found him suffering from the stab wounds.

Judge Timothy Volkmann ruled that because Sarabia Aguilar didn’t witness the stabbing itself, but arrived within minutes of the incident, her claim doesn’t meet the requirements established through case law for negligent infliction of emotional distress. He added in the ruling, filed Dec. 8, that there was no opportunity for her to amend her claim.

“It’s too bad she can’t advance her claim but we do understand the ruling based on the case law,” said Piccuta.

However, the parents’ claims are still advancing and include negligence, breach of mandatory duties to report and wrongful death.

On Aug. 31, 2021, the parents’ lawsuit says, their son was approached by two other students after school while Sarabia Aguilar was on her way to pick up her brother. The students attacked him and stabbed him minutes before his sister arrived.

When Sarabia Aguilar arrived, she found her brother stumbling and she ran to him, according to the lawsuit. She saw his injuries and called 911. Emergency personnel later arrived and he was transported to Salinas’ Natividad Medical Center, where he died from his injuries that night.

The family accuses the district of failing to have adequate supervision of students. In addition, they accuse the district of failing to report a prior incident involving one of the students to law enforcement. The lawsuit says one of the accused students had previously attacked a different student with a knife before the fatal stabbing of their son.

The lawsuit was filed against the district, Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez, former Aptos High Principal Peggy Pughe, Aptos High Vice Principal Katie Kriscunas and campus supervisors Jonathan Flores, Fonsella Guzman and George Vasquez.

A case-management conference is scheduled for May 9 at 8:30 a.m. at the Santa Cruz County Superior Courthouse.


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