Another family joins lawsuit claiming school district neglected concerns about bullying
YUCAIPA, Calif. (FOX 11) - Another family has joined a lawsuit claiming a school district neglected their concerns about bullying until the reported incidents escalated--one of them deadly, the other violent.
A video circulating the Yucaipa community shows two Park View Middle School students fighting in the school yard after school. One 14-year-old student, who wished not to be identified, said he pushed another student, Adrian Duran, because he was fed up with being tormented by the 13-year-old at school.
"What'd you say huh?" you can hear the student say to Duran.
"You started it." Duran replied before the student pushed him.
Duran said what caused him to fight back was the kid calling him fat and the N-word. He said he had enough of the name-calling.
The other student told FOX 11's Leah Uko he never called Duran a name. In the video, the boy is not heard calling Duran any names.
His parents, Frank and Tabatha Alonso stood by their claims that their son was the student constantly being targeted.
"As a father, it tears me apart," Frank said.
The Alonsos said the fight was the end result of nearly a year of verbal and physical taunting that ended in a school yard brawl.
"The only thing you want to do is get really upset. Get really angry."
Angry because his son's well-being was diminishing months after the fight because, the student, said Duran was still bothering him.
"Sometimes when I see him or like when I'm at lunch and I'm just walking to go to the building," he continued. "Then I see him in line, I just wait until he walks out of the building and then I just go in."
The Alonsos took their complaints to the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District. The complaints went back to March 2017. The parents documented multiple claims Duran stepped on their son's shoes, yanked his backpack and left scratches on his face during the schoolyard fight.
They said the school didn't react accordingly.
"I want people to know that there's ways to live, there's rules to follow, there is consequences," Mr. Alonso said. "But according to what's happening here, there is no consequences."
The parents also filed a temporary, then permanent restraining order, but say the bullying hadn't stopped.
FOX 11's Leah Uko went right to the other family involved and spoke with Duran who wanted his face shown on camera. Duran said the student and his mother, Mrs. Alonso were bullying him and trying to do everything to intimidate him and make him leave the school.
Duran acknowledged the restraining order against him, but said it was unjust. He said because he was bigger than the other student, it looked as if he was picking on him, but his size was actually what made him a target for the student's constant teasing.
"Because he's the smaller kid he can't be a bully but it doesn't matter what size you can still be a bully even if you're big or small."
Both students have different accounts of what started the fight, but they agree the school district could have helped prevent the fight from happening. Duran's mother, Amanda Duran, agreed.
"I don't condone the fighting, but I'm proud that he did stick up for himself--I am," she told Uko. "This is why kids are killing themselves. They just let it happen and happen and happen and they bottle it all up inside and they can't take it anymore. So the fact that he pushed my son first, my son retaliated. I believe--okay if you want to reprimand for him that's fine. But they both should have been in trouble for it. Not just one."
YCJUSD has been mired in controversy since a young girl in the same district took her own life.
The Avila family is still mourning the suicide death of their daughter Rosie who kept a journal detailing the abuse she went through at Mesa View Middle Sschool in Yucaip. This was abuse Charlene and Freddy Avila said the school ignored.
"I feel like the whole world is against me when you're dealing with this school because they don't want to take responsibility," Mrs. Avila said.
The Avilas had the 13-year-old in counseling. But they said the district did not do enough on its end.
"I think the schools have a hard time with that word 'bully'," Mr. Avila said. "You say 'bullying' and everybody turns their head like it's a big ol' taboo, but the truth is they don't even know how to handle it because they. Let's just ignore it. Let's just ignore it. You can't ignore it anymore. Too many children are dying."
The superintendent of YCUSD, Cali Brinks refused multiple requests for an interview. Still, there's no debating just how big an issue bullying in schools is in America.
According to StopBullying.gov, one in three U.S. students said they had been bullied at school, and 28 percent in grades 6-12 experienced bullying and most bullying happens in middle school.
Alhambra Unified School District Assistant Superintendent and Student Suicide Prevention expert, Dr. Laurel Bear, said it was a crisis in schools across the country.
"It interferes with their behavior, with their ability to sleep, their ability to eat, their ability to engage in self-care, it disrupts their learning, it interferes with their ability to self-esteem."
She continued, "Some may engage in self-medications so they become involved in drug use or they associate themselves with a group that will always take them whether it be a gang mentality or behavior or whether it be kids that are dropping out of school, kids that are ditching school because there'll always be a place for them there."
Dr. Bear added that parents need to be vigilant.
"Remind parents that if they report it once, there's not often times going to be immediate outcome. Unfortunately, because human behavior is hard to change."
This was a lesson all three families said they learned the hard way.
It's a problem. And they're not addressing it. They're just pushing it under the rug like it's not happening," Mr. Avila said.
As for both kids, they're still unable to shake the incident they both want so badly to forget.
Duran wants school administrators to be more proactive.
"When it happens, no one does anything until someone kills their self. Like before someone kills their self there's no posters about it," he continued. "They don't take it as a serious matter."
The other student said the entire ordeal had brought him and his parents to the point of pulling him out of the school.
"Every time I--like learning in class, it's hard for me to learn because I can't stop thinking about it. Like I can't do it."
Experts said there are some things kids can do to help stop this problem with bullying in schools.
Dr. Bear said to become an active bystander. According to StopBullying.gov, when bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57 percent of the time.
For schools, Dr. Bear suggested progressive disciple instead of suspending of expelling a child.
It is important to note that because more people are becoming aware of problems with bullying, people believe it is increasing, but studies show the rate of bullying may be going down.
Related: Bullying, mental health and teen suicide prevention with Jamie Weddle and Mandy Amano
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