The parents of two California fifth graders have taken their case to the police: accusing the Vallejo City Unified School District of turning a blind eye to chronic bullying that pushed one girl to the brink of suicide.
The families are calling for the expulsion of the alleged bullies -- two brothers at Cooper Elementary School -- and major reforms in how the district's schools handle bullying, the Times-Herald reports.
The parents say the intense bullying was minimally addressed by school officials, as the boys verbally harassed the girls, pushed and shoved them, made lewd comments and sexually suggestive motions like grabbing a girl's bottom. One mother says the incidents have resulted in a sprained ankle and torn sweater, among others.
Samantha, one of the fifth grade victims, told CBS 5 one of the boys even pulled a knife on her. Mother Mary Whitney says Samantha was called names like "tramp, whore, slut."
School officials decided to keep the girls inside when the mother of Autumn, the second alleged victim, complained to district officials. The isolation, however, only made matters worse, mother Patricia Hartzell tells CBS 5, as her father came across a suicide letter in Autumn's room following an incident in class earlier that day.
"I felt this movement on my desk, he was humping my desk, I didn't feel safe," Autumn told the station. "I went home crying and I didn't want to, I don't know, honestly I didn't want to live that day."
Vallejo district spokesperson Alana Shackelford tells the Times-Herald that confidentiality policies prevent discussion of this specific case, but asserts that bullying reports are always addressed.
"Anytime there's any type of complaint -- verbal or written -- it's brought to the attention of administrators, and that administrator responds appropriately," Shackelford said.
But Vallejo parents have repeatedly said bullying is an ongoing problem in the district. A Solano Middle School mother pulled her 12-year-old daughter Makiya Howell out of the system in May after the girl was viciously punched and kicked in a bathroom while classmates documented the incident on their cell phones.
Just before the attack, Makiya wrote an essay about wishing her life was over. From CBS 13: "When people treat me like an outsider it makes me die each time. Someone calls me fat and ugly; it makes me feel like a waste of space."
And just the month before, the vicious beating of 11-year-old Annisia Williams was captured on video. An older student can be seen punching, dragging and pulling Annisia's hair while her Hogan Middle School peers watched. The girl's mother told KGO-TV that the girl suffered some memory loss as a result of the incident.
Back in Vallejo, Autumn and Samantha hope that they can affect change by going public with their story.
"It's about our girls now, but what about the other children? If the district and the school are never held accountable for what's going on, what about the next child that is being bullied or picked on?" Whitney told the Times-Herald.
Despite years of tough anti-bullying laws in the state, school districts have been found to habitually ignore those regulations. The state's Joint Legislative Audit is now in the process of a nine-month investigation of districts' anti-bullying law implementation.
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