The South Pasadena Unified School District is being sued by a family who say South Pasadena High School Assistant Principal David Speck needlessly had their son arrested in 2018 for soliciting funds from neighbors on behalf of the football booster club without permission from anyone at the high school.
The complaint for negligence was filed Feb. 7 in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles Central District, by Guadalupe (Lupe) Treviso-Reinoso, a VP of Living Options at Easterseals of Southern California, on behalf of her minor child son, referred to in the case only as R.R., who was a member of the SPHS junior varsity football team.
Pasadena Attorney Brian Claypool told the South Pasadenan News the situation is a “clear case of gross overreaction” on the part of Speck and a “poster child” for the type of case that should be settled through mediation. He thought the District would “do the right thing, [but] they blew off our claim,” arguing they’d determined they had no liability and so the family filed its lawsuit.
On Tuesday, School District Superintendent Geoff Yantz confirmed to the South Pasadenan News that the District had not yet been formally served with the complaint, but he said since it addresses “a student matter,” he could not comment. He said when and if the District is served, it will respond accordingly in court.
The complaint, which is riddled with typographical, grammatical and formatting errors, says that in May 2018, R.R. “on his own initiative” canvassed the neighborhood to raise funds for the Tiger Booster Club to replace aging equipment such as a helmet that one coach called a “concussion bucket.” Players had been told to purchase their own equipment, but not all could afford to do so, the complaint states. R.R. collected $142 in cash and checks made out to the Booster Club along with a log of donors’ names, addresses and amounts.
Someone called the school about R.R. and on May 21, Speck called him into his office, outside of which was standing SPPD Officer Arthur Burgos. As R.R. had suspected he might, Speck asked him about a bullying complaint he’d filed but then inquired over whether he’d gone door to door asking for donations. R.R. acknowledged he had.
“Without allowing R.R. to provide a complete explanation, and without asking any further questions,” Speck went to Officer Burgos who then took R.R. to a conference room where he told R. R. the school was pressing charges and that he would be arrested. Two other officers arrived, and with R.R.’s permission, his backpack was searched, yielding no contraband. He was then escorted out of the office in handcuffs just as school was letting out “so there was a crowd of people” who saw what was transpiring. He was searched again, placed in a squad car and taken to the police station. He was later given a citation and ordered to appear in court.
According to the complaint, Officer Burgos told R.R.’s mother he didn’t fingerprint her son because he didn’t want to put him in the system and said “the whole thing could have been handled differently as there was no reason to arrest R.R., but that Mr. Speck insisted.” It also states that Diane Parker, the Booster Club Treasurer, confirmed she had received the funds R.R. collected and that he “did not need the Booster Club’s permission in order to fundraise for it.”
Several days later, Speck called RR into his office and apologized for not listening to his side of the story before the arrest. He ignored R.R.’s request to speak to his parents, told him he would be kicked off the football team for misleading the community by saying he was representing SPHS and would be subject to other punishment as well.
The complaint noted that at the court hearing, the case was dismissed and that “the judge apologized to R.R. for the manner in which the school had handled this situation.”
Claypool said he personally believes that Speck’s overreaction was in retaliation for the bullying complaint R.R. had filed previously. He said when Speck initially called R.R. into his office, the boy thought it was in connection with that complaint.
School authorities know or should have known that Mr. Speck was not well trained to respond to student matters, the complaint alleges. The harassment and mistreatment R.R. experienced from Mr. Speck was due to the action or inaction of District employees and administrators, considerably raising the number of prospective respondents.
It goes on to enumerate at some length the “substantial emotional distress, anxiety, nervousness and fear” the events caused R.R, claiming that it will affect his future employment and earning potential as well as his personal development for which he will “continue to incur expenses for psychological treatment,” all at a cost to be determined at trial.
The case was assigned to Judge Stephen Goorvitch, who has set two hearings for summer of 2021.