The San Joaquin Valley school district agreed to pay $10.5 million to Mitch Carter, a former student who was attacked and beaten during a pep rally because he was dressed as a mascot for a rival football team, the Los Angeles Times is reporting.
Carter suffered brain damage and spent six months in a treatment center. The Kern County High School District agreed to settle the negligence lawsuit brought by Carter, who blamed the district for his injuries.
The former Bakersfield High School student was dressed in a chicken costume at a pep rally in 2010 and was taunting the Golden Eagle mascot of an opposing team before getting swarmed by his own varsity team members.
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Carter's attorney Ralph Wegis recalled the events of the fateful day.
"He's kicked, he's punched and he's got his head on the gym floor and there are 2-and 300-pound people piling on in a series of poundings. It was just an out-of-control scene of hyped-up kids."
The attorney admitted it was a mock fight, but that school authorities failed to act quickly as things spiraled out of control.
Carter suffered damage to his pituitary gland as well as traumatic brain injury. After the attack, he struggled to learn in school because he experienced panic attacks and was always depressed. His grades plummeted as a result. Wegis revealed his medical bills presently stood at $103,000 and future medical care would require close to $5 million.
Wegis revealed that Carter wanted to stop his performance after he was first knocked over by two students. He had told a school administrator, who told him he would have to pay back the $75 that was used to rent the chicken costume. The lawsuit also said the school created a hostile environment and encouraged violence.
BLOG: Liberty, BHS football game moved to Mira Monte: Bakersfield High School principal… https://t.co/FiDcI8Oe98 pic.twitter.com/hQs4jOAVUF
— Bakersfield Day (@bakersfieldday) June 17, 2016
School district attorneys said Carter wore the chicken costume without approval from officials. Defense attorney Michael Keller, speaking to jurors, said that "the reason things got of hand was because Carter took it upon himself to create a skit unapproved that was poorly planned, ill-advised and caused things to go south." He added that Carter was "motivated by greed for money to tell absurd stories in an effort to justify how it all went down."
Wegis noted that Carter was not the first person to be beaten up dressed as a mascot at the school. He said in 2005, a Bakersfield High School teacher ended up with five broken ribs, back injuries, and a torn rotator cuff when he appeared at the pep rally dressed as a mascot for an opposing team. Wegis concluded that despite the jury's verdict and the sizable settlement, systemic problems existed in the school that needed to be addressed.
Speaking about Carter, he said that "he was put through a long and contentious ordeal to get to this end. The school completely failed in their job to deliver safety. Worse than that, they attempted to cover it up."
A district statement addressed the cover-up allegations, saying that the Kern High School District never denied that the incident happened and accepted full responsibility. The statement concluded by saying that the Carter incident would serve as a wake-up call and allow authorities reassess standards, practices, and policies to make sure that students were educated and secured in the school environment.
Carter, speaking at a news conference after the settlement, said he did not feel vindicated, adding that he would trade everything he was awarded for a fully functioning brain. He added that he hoped to become a lawyer so that he could stand up for all those who needed people to fight for them.
[Image via XiXinXing/Shutterstock]