The surveillance video is chilling. A girl, Bekah Staudacher, runs out of a bathroom at Snohomish High School screaming for help. A classmate hiding in a bathroom stall had emerged and attacked, stabbing her friend April Lutz 13 times. Bekah returns to the bathroom to intervene only to be stabbed herself.
“She saved April’s life that day,” said Christa Staudacher, Bekah’s stepmother.
Christa says the days that followed were a blur.
“We thought it was that this little girl snapped in the bathroom,” Staudacher said.
But that girl, Katrina Malernee Malhiot, hadn’t just snapped.
“When we read in the paper that there had been some history that’s what sent me,” recalled Staudacher.
Court documents revealed Malhiot had made violent threats in the past, telling her friends, even the school counselor.
“They knew she’d been expelled for exactly the same threat. She had threatened to stab another person. So was it preventable? Yes, it was preventable,” said attorney Sim Osborn.
A jury agreed, ordering the Snohomish School District to pay April Lutz and her family $1.3 million for negligence. But money can only go so far.
“I can’t go into crowds, like crowds freak me out a lot more than they should,” said April Lutz. “I can’t go into a public bathroom by myself. I have to take people with me when I go somewhere because I don’t like being alone.”
Lutz, now 17, feels Malhiot was a victim as well—of a school and a mental health system she say failed.
“She needed help and she tried to tell people but nobody helped her,” said Lutz.
The Staudachers settled out of court, but their fight isn’t over.
“Katrina had her hand up,” Christa Staudacher said.
It was a call for help Staudacher believes went unanswered. She wants lawmakers to know that the issue of mental illness cannot be ignored.
“Laws have to change. Money has to be appropriated for places for these people crying out for help,” Staudacher.
Osborn, the families’ attorney, says Snohomish High had no threat notification policy in place, something required under state law. The Snohomish School District released the following statement regarding the jury award:
“We trusted the judicial process, and the jury has made its decision. With this verdict, we will now move on. We continually look for ways we can improve the safety and conditions on our campuses, in our schools and in our classrooms.”