Valley teacher files lawsuit against insurance company

Teacher Assault

LA QUINTA, Calif. - "This has absolutely turned my life upside down," said Melissa Labayog, who teaches at Horizon School in La Quinta.
Once an English teacher at Summit High School, a continuation school that neighbors Horizon, Labayog now works out of a dim office.

A blow to the head by a student nearly two years ago left her partially blind and deaf, with significant brain injuries and she's unable to see in bright light. 

"I'm relegated to sitting in a dark room one student at a time. I'm doing the best i can," Labayog said.

Labaog got involved in a fight between two students in the hallway of Summit in September 2012. She says the student who hit her had disciplinary record, but the district didn't tell her, as state law requires.

"The truth is the district does not allow teachers in this district to see the records of students who are in their class," Labayog said.

The school district says that's not the case. 

"The policy for the district and the law is that all teachers must be informed of potentially violent students," said Sherry Johnstone, Assistant Superintendent of Desert Sands Unified School District.

The district says it abides by this law, but would not comment if the student who struck Labayog had a history of aggressive behavior, or if Labayog knew about it.

"I have one eye left and one ear left, I can't afford for this to happen again," Labayog said.

Labayog is also battling with her insurance company, Prudential. She filed a lawsuit against the company earlier this month after it denied her disability claim and subsequent appeals.

"I don't feel owed, I am owed. They owe me what my premium allows. This isn't for me. This is for my daughter to go to college," Labayog said.

We reached out to Prudential Insurance, who said it could not comment on the lawsuit at this time. Labayog says she just wants to feel normal again.

"My goal is to make every teacher and student safer when they come and sit in the classroom. And all I expect from prudential is to do their job," she said.

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