Jury awards $1.5M to school stabbing victim
A King County jury awarded $1.3 million to a Snohomish High School student who was stabbed in a school bathroom by an unstable classmate.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A King County Superior Court jury has awarded $1.3 million to April Lutz, a Snohomish High School student who was stabbed in October 2011 by an unstable student.
Lutz, then 14, nearly died and her friend, Bekah Staudacher, was injured when a girl who previously had threatened to kill another student’s boyfriend was allowed to come back to school after showing proof she’d been through counseling.
The judgment against the Snohomish School District “speaks volumes about what the school did and didn’t do,’’ said Lutz’s attorney Sim Osborn. “We feel good about it. It held the school responsible for their shortcomings and their failure to protect April and Rebecca from a predictable event.’’
According to court records, as early as April 2011 the attacker confided to a school counselor that she was having repeated violent fantasies of injuring and killing people.
She was expelled from school when she threatened to stab a friend’s boyfriend. She had five days of outpatient mental-health treatment at Fairfax Hospital in Kirkland and was allowed to return to school in early May, according to court documents.
On Oct. 24 she came to school with two kitchen butcher knives, one attached to a pipe, in her backpack. She confronted the girls, who didn’t know her, in the bathroom, stabbing Lutz.
Staudacher tried to protect Lutz and was stabbed herself. She then ran to summon help from teachers. Boys from the football team confronted the attacker, kicking the knife out of the way as one held Lutz and applied pressure to her wounds.
Lutz’s heart stopped several times en route to the hospital, where surgery was performed in the emergency room.
Doctors at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett said later that Lutz would have died if the stab wounds had been 4 or 5 millimeters closer to a main artery to her heart.
Less than a week later Lutz walked out of the hospital and several months later went back to Snohomish High School — but not for long.
“I got to the point I couldn’t go out the door,’’ she said. She’s now enrolled in Running Start classes at a community college, where she gets both high-school and college credit. She dreams of someday being a veterinarian, a natural for a girl with five cats, she said.
The award will help with that goal, she added.
What it won’t give her back is her sense of safety.
“I can’t go to public places, public bathrooms and crowds are really scary for me. I don’t like big crowds,’’ she said.
She seldom sees friends from school, or even Bekah, her best friend since third grade. All relationships are overshadowed by the attack, she said. And though she is still a student at the school — taking her classes off campus — she’s missed proms, football games and all the usual passages of teenage years, except for one, a homecoming dance attended one week before the attack, she said.
Today, Lutz is often “afraid to be alone,’’ her mother, Susan Lutz, said. “We’re trying to get most of this behind us.’’
The school district settled earlier with Staudacher. Fairfax Hospital in Kirkland and the attacker’s parents — sued for failing to supervise their daughter — settled earlier with both Staudacher and Lutz, Osborn said.
“We trusted the judicial process, and the jury has made its decision,’’ said Kristin Foley, communications director for the district. “With this verdict, we will now move on. We continually look for ways we can improve the safety and conditions on our campuses, in our schools and in our classrooms.”
The attacker, who is incarcerated at Echo Glen Children’s Center, will be transferred to the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor when she turns 21.
She was charged with first-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault, and pleaded guilty in March 2012. She will serve 13 years in incarceration.
Nancy Bartley: firstname.lastname@example.org