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Mother: Special needs student bullied, robbed during middle school lunch period

Posted at 5:46 PM, May 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-20 21:19:21-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A Mira Mesa mom she says her special needs son was bullied and robbed at his middle school during lunch.

Diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy, Justin Juanengo has surpassed many of the expected physical limitations, but remains unable to use his legs or his left arm. Michelle Juanengo and her husband adopted him at age 2.

"We've always been worried there would be other kids who would find him an easy target," she said.

Last week her fears became a reality. At lunchtime on Wednesday at Wangenheim Middle School, she says a 7th grade classmate and several other students came up to Justin, 13, and started spinning his wheelchair and calling him names.

"He was nervous, scared. Didn't know where it was going to go from there. There are a lot of things that can go wrong if you're spinning a wheelchair. Were they going to roll him off somewhere?" said Michelle.

Justin says it went on for minutes before his friend got the boys to stop. One of the boys then grabbed Justin's backpack and took off. According to his mother, Justin and a friend went to a classroom and found the ringleader, demanding and getting back the backpack. Inside, his wallet containing $20 dollars was gone.

"Sad, feel terrible for Justin. I feel like he's had to tolerate enough with all his health limitations ... the ways he sees himself as different from other students. Why should he not have the right to go to school and feel safe?" said Michelle.

Michelle says her son didn't have an aide with him, which is mandated by the state. She says she has recently learned the aide suffered a back injury last year and the substitute aide is sometimes not available.

"That's not good enough. He needs to have the aide. That could have prevented this," said Michelle.

Another source of frustration? Justin says his bully is known for bullying and stealing from other kids, something Michelle believes should have been addressed earlier. Vice principal Miko Uhuru declined to talk about Justin's case citing privacy. He told 10News one of Justin's parents could sign a waiver, which Michelle says she didn't know about but now plans to sign.

"What I can says is we don't tolerate bullying. We investigate it and take is seriously," said Uhuru.

Michelle says she was told the boy will be punished by the school, but wasn't given specifics. She says she and her husband are thinking about legal action against the school district to "make sure the same thing doesn't happen to other special needs students."