The family of an 8-year-old boy with Down syndrome who died at summer school has reached an $18 million settlement with a California district.
"He was always happy. He would always make everybody happy," Lizbeth Murillo, the sister of Moises Murillo, said in a press conference.
On May 31, 2017, Moises attended “extended school year," a learning program for children with special needs at Sunset Elementary School in La Puente, California, according to a 2018 lawsuit that was reviewed by TODAY Parents.
Moises, who had Down syndrome, was non-verbal and used an adaptive stroller with specialized restraints to move around. He had an IEP (Individualized Education Program), a legal document containing a special needs student's educational plan in collaboration with teachers, principals, therapists and others.
According to Murillo family attorney Steve Vartazarian, a teacher wheeled Moises over to a desk for a sensory task. "His wheelchair wouldn't allow his legs to fit under the desk so she tried removing him from his stroller to sit him in a regular chair," he said.
Vartazarian said that didn't work so the teacher called a colleague for help and together, they got Moises into a standard classroom chair, strapping him in with a gait belt, a device used for safely moving medical patients from beds to chairs.
"The teachers turned around to do something else and didn't pay attention (to Moises)," said Vartazarian. "He pushed himself in some way and fell back."
The lawsuit states that Moises suffered "extensive" neck injuries and went into cardiac arrest. He was taken to Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina, then Children's Hospital of Orange County where he was placed on life support.
On June 4, 2017, Moises died.
The wrongful death lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County, states the Hacienda-La Puente Unified School District, Sunset Elementary School and the former superintendent were negligent in their care of Moises.
"Under no circumstance should a child ever sustain a significant injury at school or die," said Vartazarian. "The teacher should have read Moises' IEP to determine whether he could have sat up straight."
A spokesperson from the Hacienda-La Puente Unified School District did not return TODAY Parents' request for comment.
"This is an issue of national concern," said Vartazarian, adding in the press conference, 'The question to the school district would be, are you going to do anything different as a result of this tragedy?"