Socorro school district faces potential lawsuit

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The parents of a graduating Socorro High School student say they plan to sue the Socorro Consolidated School District and staff members for what they claim to be unjustified action by the school board.

David Dotson, father of SHS graduate Bryce Sandoval, said this week he plans to file suit for $200,001 in damages. Named in the potential suit are Interim Superintendent Vannetta Perry, Assistant Superintendent Antone Salome, SHS Principal Craig De Young, SHS Assistant Principal Manuel Molina, SHS Athletic Director Damien Ocampo and boys basketball coach Lawrence Baca.

The move is the next step by Dotson and Sandoval's mother, Marcella Sandoval, in an effort to expunge a suspension from their son's school record.

"They convicted him, sentenced him, charged him and then investigated him," said Dotson. "It's about straightening out his record."

Perry said on Thursday the district had no comment at this time.

The proposed lawsuit, delivered to the district office on May 17, alleges the suspension of Sandoval received last February was fabricated, that the school board is in violation of not only its own disciplinary policies, but state polices as well. It states the district "conspired to falsely accuse Bryce Sandoval" of "aggressive behavior against a Socorro High School coach" in an alleged episode occurring Feb. 23.

The incident in question occurred after a Warriors boys basketball game in which Sandoval allegedly attempted to assault Baca. Sandoval received a five day suspension. The suspension itself occurred Feb.24-March 1.

At the April 30 meeting of the Socorro School Board, Sandoval's mother presented what she said was an "abusive situation" involving the conduct of Baca, the coach. She went on to say the suspension had no basis on which to stand and asked that her son's record be expunged.

The request was denied by the board, with Perry stating a thorough investigation had been done in the matter.

"I know that the administration will have to bring this to the board, and then the board will have to contact the Risk Management Division of the New Mexico Department of Education," he said. "Based on the division's ruling, we'll either have this resolved and the record expunged, or we'll move ahead with litigation."

The suit levies five counts:

• Conspiracy;

• Violation of Bryce Sandoval's right to privacy in violation of the Fourth Amendment as incorporated into the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution;

• Intentional infliction of emotional distress/negligent infliction of emotional distress;

• Violation of Bryce Sandoval's rights under the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments as incorporated into the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution;

• Violation of procedural due process under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments as incorporated into the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Sought as possible legal redress are the following:

• Expungement of the suspension from the permanent record;

• Monetary damages outlined are $25,000 against Baca, 15,000 against Ocampo, $35,000 each against Molina and De Young and $75,001 against Perry, and $15,000 against Salome.

The document goes on to cite Ocampo and Baca for "intentionally and negligently inflicting emotional distress on Bryce Sandoval."

Molina and De Young are cited for "improperly and against school policy and N.M. State Law 6 NMAC 11, when they suspended, then charged Sandoval."

The proposed suit charges all parties with "acting within the scope of their employment by denying Bryce Sandoval the right to face and question his accusers, testify, produce witnesses in his behalf and exculpatory evidence to refute the charges, violated his Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth amendment rights as incorporated into the 14th Amendment, resulting in an illegal investigation, illegal Administrative Adjudicative Proceeding and illegal suspension of Bryce Sandoval."

As for Bryce Sandoval, who graduated Friday, said he was intending to apply for college at New Mexico Military Institute, but had to forgo that plan.

"I couldn't do it," he said. "At the top of the application it asks, 'Have you ever been suspended?' I didn't do anything wrong, I shouldn't be in this situation."


-- Email the author at lalvarado@dchieftain.com.