Parents of boy who drowned on school trip file claim against LAUSD

The parents of a high school student with autism who drowned while on a school-sponsored event have filed a claim against the Los Angeles Unified School District, saying the district's negligence led to their son's death.

Erick Ortiz, 16, drowned while on a Garfield High School trip to Atlantic Avenue Park on June 4, according to the claim dated June 13 filed by Ortiz’s parents, Claudia Herrera and Cesar Ortiz. The complaint says the district failed to provide adequate supervision for special needs children, including Ortiz, at the event. A service for Ortiz was held last Wednesday.

Ortiz was left unsupervised near the swimming pool area and fell in, Luis Carrillo, the parent's attorney, said in an email. He said that the trip was not a swimming event and Ortiz did not know how to swim. 

The claim says the LAUSD failed to provide proper supervision for Ortiz during the trip and negligently hired, trained and retained Jose Lopez, a special education assistant assigned to care for Ortiz since 2012. The LAUSD, Superintendent John Deasy and Lopez are named as respondents.

"The LAUSD knew that the child could not be left alone for even a second," Carrillo said in the email. "The family wants justice, an independent investigation, and answers as to why their child was left alone. The family does not want condolences from the LAUSD."

The claim, which is considered a precursor to a lawsuit, seeks unspecified monetary damages for future medical care, lost wages and emotional pain and suffering.

As of Friday, spokesperson Sean Rossall said the LAUSD had not yet been served with a lawsuit.

"Our hearts and sympathies go out to the family of Mr.Ortiz,” Rossall said in an email. “We are cooperating fully with law enforcement in its continuing investigation of this matter.”

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