Family to sue school Long Beach Unified School District over girl's fight death


Joanna's mother, Cecilia Villanueva, spoke out a day after police announced no charges will be filed against her daughter's classmate in connection with a fight that left the 10-year-old dead.

Police ruled the death a homicide and handed the investigation over to the D.A.'s office, but they declined to file charges.

The family believes the girl she fought with should be held responsible for her death, but they also believe the school bears some responsibility, so they're filing a lawsuit accusing the school of negligence.

"For me it's like my daughter is dead and the girl, she's free, she can do whatever, and she's still alive, and my daughter's not alive anymore," said Cecilia Villanueva, Joanna's mother. "It's not fair. It's not fair."

The fight happened on February 24 in an alley near Willard Elementary School in Long Beach. The students were attending an after-school program when they left and got into a fight. Witnesses say Joanna had a bloody nose when she came back to school.

"When she came home, she was really bad," said Villanueva. "Then she said, 'I want to go to sleep, I feel tired, Mom.'"

"How is it that a group of kids can leave the school from an after-school program, go off campus, engage in a fight, and then come back on campus after the fight?" asked attorney Luis Carrillo.

Carrillo says he will file a suit against the Long Beach Unified School District.

"The Long Beach Unified School District, the administrators, the principal all fell asleep," said Carillo. "They were negligent in protecting the children, the students."

Joanna's family is starting a foundation in her name with the goal of educating educators and parents about the dangers of fighting.

"We can help other kids, and we can learn better," said Villanueva. "We can do something for Joanna."

The district attorney's office says because the case involves a juvenile, it will not comment on its decision not to file charges.

The Long Beach Police Department said in a statement that the "case was a fight between two children that ended with unintended and tragic results."

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