The Oakdale Joint Unified School District is being sued by the family of a teen who was hospitalized after drinking alcohol at an Escalon house party reportedly hosted by a high school teacher.
The teenage boy's family also is suing Leandra Spence and Pete Corwin, who are identified in the civil lawsuit as residents of the Lemon Avenue home when the party occurred Jan. 28, 2017. Spence, an Oakdale High School teacher, is accused of hosting the party at her home.
Joseph Carcione, a San Mateo-based attorney, filed the civil lawsuit Jan. 26 in San Joaquin Superior Court on behalf of the boy and his mother, Sherry Fenn.
The attorney said Wednesday the school district's response has been alarming. He said school officials have disregarded the boy's well-being, focusing their efforts on hiring attorneys and investigators to poke holes in the boy's story.
Never miss a local story.
"They closed ranks trying to defend themselves," Carcione said. "It's just so bizarre."
The boy, who is 17, was 16 at the time of the party.
The plaintiff is seeking in excess of $25,000 for damages including incurred medical costs and emotional distress, which has worsened, according to the lawsuit. The attorney said the boy almost died that night.
The boy's mother said Wednesday her goal for this lawsuit is to ensure Spence is no longer in a trusted position at a school, where she can furnish alcohol to minors.
"The next time somebody may die," Fenn said.
The lawsuit was filed in court more than a month ago. Since school district officials have not been served with the lawsuit, they declined to comment Wednesday, said Terri Taylor, assistant superintendent of human resources.
Taylor said Spence is still an employee for Oakdale Joint Unified School District, and Spence is on paid administrative leave.
Carcione said his law firm intends on serving a copy of the lawsuit on the defendants "very promptly."
Online court records did not list attorneys for the defendants in the civil case. Attempts by The Bee to reach Spence and Corwin by phone Wednesday and Thursday were not successful.
In the lawsuit, Carcione argues that the school district knew or should have known that Spence was providing alcohol at her party and failed to prevent or stop it before the boy was harmed.
Spence worked as a special education teacher at Oakdale High, and she was a faculty adviser for the school's rodeo club, according to the lawsuit. Her role with the club included organizing and supervising activities involving the students in and out of the classroom.
The lawsuit says Spence was in a position of trust and responsibility when it came to overseeing students under her supervision. The lawsuit claims Spence and Corwin would host parties at their home involving alcohol.
The boy's mother has said her son’s friend called to tell her the boy had been drinking and was unresponsive. She arrived at the home at about 10:45 p.m. and found her son on the back porch.
About 15 minutes later, her son arrived at the hospital and remained there until 4 a.m. She has said a test showed a blood alcohol content level of 0.25 percent, that's more than three times the legal limit of 0.08 for drivers.
The lawsuit claims the defendants knew or should have known students were or might be drinking alcohol, and knew or should have known that the teenage boy required immediate medical attention that night.
Carcione argued in the lawsuit that the school district "recklessly" failed to monitor its employee.
San Joaquin County sheriff's officials questioned Spence after seeing the boy at the hospital that night. Spence was cited for misdemeanor charges and released. Sheriff's officials forwarded the case to the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office.
A few months after the Escalon party, prosecutors formally charged Spence with misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The criminal case is scheduled for a jury trial assignment on April 6.
The civil case against the school district, Spence and Corwin is scheduled for its first court appearance on July 25 for a case management conference.