ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Public Schools is paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to a family for what happened to a student in a school cafeteria. The family sued the state’s largest school district and the school counselor accused of kicking a fourth-grader, according to online records.
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The student is claiming he was bullied by a staff member in the cafeteria at George I. Sanchez Collaborative Community School back in April 2018.
School counselor John Herrera is seen on surveillance video approaching the back of the student and was reportedly bothered that the child was sitting on his feet at lunch, according to the family’s attorney Cammie Nichols.
“Rather than talk to him he just yelled at him and kicked him in the back which caused him to fall forward and fall into his lunch,” Nichols said.
Herrera is seen talking to the student for a short time, then continues his lunch oversight duties. The student rushed off to get napkins to clean up the mess, and a minute later, re-enacts the scene to the table of kids with a forceful air kick, then grabs his back.
Nichols added this experience caused bruising to the elementary school student but left even more emotional trauma.
The family sued the district and Herrera, alleging civil rights violations and negligence. Court documents just filed Oct. 1 show they reached a settlement of $240,000.
“You want to feel safe at school and to think that an adult who’s supposed to treat you with respect and keep you safe and is instead bullying you, that was the worst part of the case for him,” Nichols said.
Nichols believes APS needs to do more to prevent something similar from happening to another student. “Make sure the people that you’re staffing in certain areas are appropriate for that arena,” she said.
In an email to KRQE News 13, APS said they do not have a comment on the case.
Herrera is not on the district’s online list of employees. It’s unclear if he was let go or left voluntarily, and when.
Online court records show that Herrera was initially charged with child abuse in this case. District Court Judge Brett Lovelace granted Herrera’s motion to dismiss the case based on the state’s failure to show the cafeteria surveillance video or medical evidence to the grand jury.