SMMUSD HDQTRS — The Malibu High School student who claims she was slapped in the face multiple times by her teacher in front of her entire class wants more than $1 million from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

The 15-year-old ninth grader, Dionne Evans, filed a claim for damages with the SMMUSD on Friday, demanding a total of $1,010,000 — $1 million for pain and suffering and $10,000 for medical expenses related to counseling she received, her attorney, Donald Karpel said.

School district officials could not be reached for comment.

Evans claims she was slapped several times in the face by her teacher, Jennifer Gonzalez, on May 22 after she failed to bring a notebook to class.

Gonzalez allegedly walked to Evans’ desk and then asked her if she had seen the movie “Bridesmaids.” She then began slapping the student, Karpel said.

In a scene from the movie, one character literally tries to slap some sense into another. To view the scene, go to www.youtube.com and search for “Bridesmaids Annie and Megan’s talk part 1.”

Superintendent Sandra Lyon told the Daily Press last week that the teacher gently patted the student and that there was no intent to harm her.

“The teacher was trying to encourage the student to give her best efforts in the last few weeks of school,” Lyon said, describing the incident as more of an innocent exchange rather than a frustrated, abusive outburst. “As far as we know, up to this point the student has had a very positive relationship with this teacher.”

Gonzalez was removed from the classroom while the district conducted an internal investigation. The teacher was let back into the classroom after the district determined nothing substantial had occurred.

The incident is under investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The school district has 45 days to resolve the issue by either paying the full amount or working out a settlement. If not, Karpel is prepared to file a civil lawsuit.

“I expect them to continue to do nothing,” Karpel said. “They never disciplined the teacher, never put her on administrative leave and I assume they will do nothing about our claim. We are prepared to take the next step.”

When asked if $1 million was excessive, Karpel asked what the value is on humiliation, saying his client has not been able to go back into the classroom and will probably transfer schools in the fall.

“What’s the number on that?” he asked.

In an interview with KLTA News, Evans said she did not want to report the incident at first, but a bus driver told her to speak up.

“I tried to convince myself that I was overreacting and part of me had felt guilty,” Evans told the television station.

“Then I was like, ‘You can’t be in denial about your feelings.’ Like, I was genuinely offended and I felt hurt and embarrassed.”

Readers of the Daily Press have been sounding off on the issue.

Susan Kraus of Malibu wrote:

“Jennifer Gonzalez is one of the best teachers at Malibu High. My children were fortunate enough to be in her English classes, and we all have the highest respect for her. I can’t believe she would ever harm a student. We need more teachers as passionate and caring as Ms. Gonzalez.”

Debra Shepherd had a different take, writing:

“If you believe that this was just an innocent pat on the face, then I have the deed to the Brooklyn Bridge in my pocketbook. I expected the district’s attorneys to have a better defense than this. They certainly get paid enough tax payer money.”

kevinh@smdp.com

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