The four students attended Floyd I. Marchus School, operated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education. The public school offers special education services and integrated counseling to 85 children with emotional and behavioral disabilities. Students are referred to the school from districts in Contra Costa County and neighboring counties.

The class-action suit, alleging battery, negligence and civil rights violations, also names the California Department of Education, the Contra Costa County Office of Education and members of the staff at Marchus School as defendants. The suit also names State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, in his official capacity as state schools chief, although the incidents occurred before he took office in January.