The vigil in Watsonville Sunday featured photos of the 17-year old Aptos High student.
A vigil in Watsonville featured photos of the 17-year old Aptos High student who was stabbed and killed on campus in August 2021.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
K-12 Education

PVUSD rejects claim filed by parents of Aptos High stabbing victim; sister files separate claim

The complaint from Alexa Sarabia Aguilar says Pajaro Valley Unified School District and Aptos High were not prepared for the events that led to the death of her younger brother, and mishandled the response that might’ve saved his life. On Wednesday, the school board rejected a similar claim filed by his parents last year.

Update: The PVUSD Board of Trustees voted at their Wednesday meeting to reject the claim filed against the district by the parents of the victim.

The sister of the Aptos High School stabbing victim, Alexa Sarabia Aguilar, filed a claim against the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, weeks after her parents filed a similar one in December.

While the new claim includes arguments mentioned in her parents’ claim about how the district failed to protect students, it also lays out more of what she experienced the day she went to pick up her brother from school.

The parents of the boy killed on the Aptos High campus took the first legal step Tuesday that is often a precursor to a...

First, the claim partly blames the tragedy on a board decision in July 2020 to discontinue its school resource officer program. It also alleges that district officials failed to supervise students on campus and that district officials failed to provide proper training to the Aptos High staff.

After her parents filed their claim, PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez provided a statement.

“We remain heartbroken by the tragic death of our Aptos High School student, and our prayers remain with his family,” she said last month. “The entire PVUSD community shares in their grief and sadness.”

Officers stand guard outside of Aptos High School
Officers stand guard outside of Aptos High School on Aug. 31, 2021. A student was stabbed shortly after 2 p.m. and students and staff were put on lockdown.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

District officials said the claim filed by the students’ parents will be reviewed during Wednesday’s board meeting and trustees will take action on it then as well. They will either approve or deny the claim.

However, as they said then, because the “matter now involves pending litigation, the District cannot comment further on this case, other than to reiterate our sympathies and sincere condolences to the family involved.”

On the day of the attack, Aug. 31, Sarabia Aguilar said in her claim that she went to pick up her brother G.S. from school. He finished his last class at 2:15 p.m. and Sarabia Aguilar was running late. He texted her to confirm she was on her way and told her that he would be waiting near the parking area by the pool.

She told him she was almost there. But minutes before she arrived, students K.O. and I.R. confronted G.S. behind the old gym. They attacked G.S. and K.O. stabbed G.S. with a knife.

Just minutes later, Sarabia Aguilar arrived in the parking lot near the pool, and at about 2:28 p.m. she saw him “staggering toward her from the pool area,” according to the claim.

“He was pale and appeared to be in a cold sweat,” the claim reads. “She got out of the car and ran to her brother, who collapsed in front of her.”

Sarabia Aguilar called 911 and looked for help but didn’t see any PVUSD staff nearby. She then saw a parent and asked them to find school officials. In the meantime, while talking to 911 dispatchers she observed her brother’s injuries more closely. He had a stab wound on his abdomen and a cut on his head. The injuries were severe.

About five to six minutes later, two school security staff members arrived and one left quickly while the other stayed to “handle crowd control.” About one minute later, a school nurse arrived and at first didn’t provide assistance. The claim says the nurse appeared to Sarabia Aguilar to be a parent.

Still, Sarabia Aguilar was following instructions from the 911 dispatchers to apply pressure to her brother’s injuries. She asked the nurse to help by talking with 911 and at that point she told Sarabia Aguilar to lay her brother flat.

“That was the extent of the medical care offered or provided by the nurse,” according to the claim.

Police officers later arrived and provided medical care as they waited for an ambulance. The claim says emergency responders placed a mask on him and Sarabia Aguilar watched as her brother struggled to breathe until he became non-responsive, according to the claim.

About 15 to 20 minutes after she found him, he was taken to an area near the baseball field before he was airlifted to Natividad Medical Center in Salinas. He died later that night.

The parents and sister are both represented by Charles “Tony” Piccuta of the Piccuta Law Group based in Monterey. He said that under state law, public entities cannot be sued without “giving notice of the claim first.”

The school district has 45 days to act on the claims once it has received them, according to Piccuta.

“If they deny it, we can then file a lawsuit,” he said when the earlier claim was filed. “If the school district fails to act within 45 days, the claim is deemed rejected/denied, and we can then also file a lawsuit.”

The claim, like that of her parents, was addressed to Rodriguez and former board of trustees president Jennifer Holm. But it also lists Aptos High School officials, including the principal and assistant principals and “other PVUSD personnel who have yet to be identified” as being responsible for causing “injury, damage or loss.”

In response to Sarabia Aguilar’s claim, the district issued a statement on Wednesday.

“PVUSD was served with a second claim related to the tragic incident that occurred at Aptos High School several months ago. The claim will be reviewed by the School Board at an upcoming meeting and action on the claim will likely be taken at that time,” it reads. “Given that this matter now involves pending litigation, the District cannot comment further on this case but we at PVUSD share in their grief and sadness of this loss.”

District officials said they will discuss Sarabia Aguilar’s claim at the following board meeting, scheduled for Feb. 9.

Check back for more on this developing story.