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Parents of O.C. teen who killed himself file claim against school district

The parents of a 16-year-old high school student who committed suicide last month have filed a $3-million claim against his Orange County school district alleging that administrators and staff failed for years to intervene while their son was “relentlessly bullied.”

Daniel Mendez, a sophomore at San Clemente High School in the Capistrano Unified School District, drove to a friend’s house in San Clemente shortly after school let out May 1.

He parked nearby, got out of the car and shot himself, authorities concluded.

According to the claim filed by his parents, Mendez had been bullied for years. The bullying, they said, intensified during the week before his death.

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Mendez’s difficulties at school started in sixth grade, said James Traut, an attorney representing Danny and Anna Mendez, the dead student’s parents.

“He was shy and quiet and he took it, even though it bothered him,” Traut said.

Mendez’s parents don’t know why their son became the target of bullies, but they sought counseling for him because of it and approached the school several times for help, Traut said.

“It was common knowledge there was a lot of taunting going on,” the attorney said.

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School district officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

In the days leading up to Mendez’s death, the taunting was severe, Traut said.

“There were two boys in particular who were persistent at it,” he said.

The day of his death, Mendez was in a fight with the boys and suffered a split lip and bruising, Traut added.

Mendez’s parents said they learned about the fight and the buildup of the bullying during that last week from his fellow students, who described it to them after his death.

The claim, which can be a precursor to a lawsuit, seeks $3 million in damages.

The claim asks that all of the money be directed to the Orangewood Children’s Home, an emergency shelter for abused and neglected children in Orange County.

“Hopefully,” Traut said, “there will be a consequence that will result in the school district doing something to prevent bullying. . . . [The Mendezes are] not interested in receiving money based on the death of their son.”

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paloma.esquivel@latimes.com


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