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Bay Area school district settles lawsuit over death of teen for $5 million

Bay Area school district settles lawsuit over death of teen for $5 million

The family of Kevon DeLeon settled its case with the Vallejo City Unified School District after the teenager’s death in 2021 from a seizure when he was allowed to wander away from his supervised special needs program at Everest Academy.

The amount — $5 million.

Kevon DeLeon is shown. (Courtesy photo) 

According to the lawsuit filed by multiple lawyers — including Bryan Harrison of Harrison, Kristopher, LLP — DeLeon suffered from epilepsy, encephalopathy, diminished executive functioning and adjustment disorder with disturbant emotion. In September of 2021 he began to wander off campus from Everest Academy during school hours before suffering multiple seizures that went unnoticed and caused his death two days later.

Soon after Kevin’s death the family sued the district for negligence, negligence hiring/retention/supervision/training and survival action.

According to a news release by Harrison on Tuesday, the settlement “will allow the family to close this chapter of his life and to fully grieve at the loss of their child.”

“Notwithstanding the settlement, it is still the wish of the family that the district’s procedures and policies for the care of all the children be examined so that other parents’ nightmares do not become reality,” the statement reads.

Harrison — a native of Vallejo and a retired special education teacher who had worked for the district’s Jesse Bethel High School — said the case of was of particular importance to him because of his family’s background in the city and the district.

Harrison told the Times-Herald on Tuesday that he still has two more lawsuits currently with the district, including another wrongful death lawsuit.

“With this case it was a sense of a call to duty,” Harrison said. “Vallejo deserves more, the students deserve more and the parents deserve more.”

Harrison said that the family also tried to get DeLeon his diploma, but the lawyers came up short in that area.

“This case was never about the money,” the lawyer said. “It was about bringing public attention to issues going on with the Vallejo City Unified School District. It’s a really unfortunate case and we all wish Kevon was still here.

“My team and I worked diligently to uncover the truth and obtain justice for the family who had loved and raised Kevon, but I also wanted to help my hometown,” Harrison continued. “It is my sincere hope that this legal process has opened the eyes of the administrators and staff of VCUSD to the shortcomings of their procedures and that changes will be made to the benefit of all the children of Vallejo and the parents and families who love them.”

Edi Kristopher, a partner at Harrison|Kristopher, LLP, co-counsel on this case, as well as a mother with a special needs young adult, said there is still work to do to meet the significant challenges special needs students face in the public school system.

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“It is satisfying to have helped right the wrongs in this case for the family of Kevon but there are too many children whose voices are not heard that we all need to stand up for and it is my goal to do that,” Kristopher said.

Kevon’s legal guardian were grandmother Reauchean DeLeon-Watson as well as Kevon’s father, Alexander De Leon, who is also a special needs person. The mother of Kevon passed away in December of  2015.

“This should have never happened. Under no circumstance was Kevon to ever leave school unattended,” said DeLeon-Watson in 2022. “That was always the biggest fear with him. We needed people to look out for him as he was known to have seizures at school a lot. The school’s first priority should have been Kevon.”

DeLeon-Watson said Kevon, who loved singing, art, dancing and gymnastics, was looking forward to graduating in December of 2021. DeLeon-Watson says Kevon was “a loving and outgoing person” who was looking forward to college.