Caldwell student files claim against district after employee allegedly had kids fight

A tort claim has been filed against the Caldwell School District after an employee was arrested for allegedly encouraging middle school students to fight.

Ettson Arreola, 20, was arrested by the Caldwell Police Department on Jan. 27 after school resource officers said they found a video on social media of Arreola encouraging two male students to fight and two female students to fight at Syringa Middle School.

Caldwell School District spokesperson Jessica Watts told the Idaho Statesman they were notified of the incident on Jan. 26 and “immediately contacted law enforcement.”

The three-page claim is seeking $500,000 on behalf of a student who said she was called up to the front of the class to fight and defend herself against another student, who “started hitting her repeatedly in the head and face for 10 seconds.”

“This is beyond the scope of any type of negligence; this is outrageous and unfathomable behavior on the part of both the employee and the Caldwell School District that employed him,” Boise-based attorney Joe Filicetti wrote in the claim, which was also filed against the Caldwell School District Board of Trustees and Syringa Middle School.

Idaho law requires a tort claim, which is not a lawsuit, to be filed before an individual can sue an agency for allegedly violating state law. The agency has 90 days to respond.

The student has suffered mental and emotional trauma, along with some minor injuries, including sore ribs and headaches, according to the claim. She is expected to need medication for depression and anxiety and extended counseling.

Police said last week that the students weren’t injured, and in a follow-up email, Caldwell Police Department spokesperson Char Jackson told the Statesman that when students were being interviewed, “no injuries were reported.”

According to the claim, the student doesn’t want to go to school and wants to “escape the Caldwell School District” to receive a private education. She has been harassed by other students and is being considered a “snitch,” the claim said.

Arreola has been charged with nine misdemeanors: four counts of injury to a child; four counts of violation of the juvenile corrections act, encouraging a minor to fight; and one count of inciting a riot, according to police and online court records. He was booked into the Canyon County jail but has since been released on $10,000 bail, court records showed.

He has been fired from the school district and “will not return to working in our school or district,” Watts said.

A news release from Caldwell police previously said that Arreola was a substitute teacher at the middle school, but the tort claim said Arreola was a full-time employee working as a school aide and was covering a teacher’s class for two hours.

Watt, in an email Thursday told the Statesman that Arreola was an aide. She said all district employees — including Arreola — are fingerprinted and must pass a background check before they are hired.

Tort claim details allegations

The claim also provided what it said were new details on the incident, stating that Arreola covered a teacher’s fourth- and seventh-period classes for sixth graders on Jan. 26, according to the claim.

During fourth period, the claim said, Arreola told students that if they told him whom they had a crush on, he’d give them candy. Then, during seventh period, Arreola handed out a worksheet and asked students, “Who has a beef with each other?”

Four students, including the student who filed the tort claim, were identified by their classmates and told by Arreola to fight, the claim said.

Arreola also asked the class if anyone was “a snitch,” and a male student was pointed at and told by Arreola that if he stayed quiet, he’d buy the student McDonald’s. Another student was “ordered” to lock the classroom door and lower the window shades, according to the claim.

Arreola told the students they could record the fights as long as his face wasn’t in the video, and students posted at least three videos on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, the claim said.

The claim also said the school district hasn’t been in touch with the student’s family except when she gave statements to a school resource officer.

“The Caldwell School District has zero tolerance for this type of behavior,” Superintendent Shalene French said in a news release following Arreola’s arrest. “The personal safety and welfare of each child is of paramount concern to the district. The district has taken immediate steps to ensure the safety of all students. We are providing support for the students involved and are actively cooperating with law enforcement.”

Watts, in the email, said the district has “zero tolerance” for the allegations against Arreola, and that the safety and welfare of students “is of paramount concern to the district.”

“As you can imagine, this news is concerning for our students and staff,” Watts said. ”Over the weekend, we put plans in place, so any student directly or indirectly affected would have support from school counselors first thing Monday morning.”