Vallejo Students Accuse School Of Ignoring Bullying Complaints
VALLEJO (CBS 5) — If you have ever been bullied in school or have children that have been targeted, you know how traumatic it can be. That’s why there are strict laws to prevent it, and to investigate complaints.
Two fifth graders at a Bay Area school told CBS 5 they are suffering from constant bullying. They accuse the school of sweeping their complaints under the rug.
The sign in front of Cooper Elementary in Vallejo proclaims in bold letters: Be safe, responsible, respectful. But the school is anything but, according to two 5th graders. Samantha and Autumn said they are constantly bullied in school by two brothers.
“They punch us in the stomach, they slap us,” said Samantha.
“They chase us for our snacks so we don’t have any,” said Autumn.
Samantha’s parents Mary and Eric Whitney said the bullying has been going on for over a year.
“My daughter coming home, crying, telling me she was being called names, tramp, whore, slut,” said Mary Whitney.
They said the school downplayed it, and the bullying got much worse.
Samantha recalled a recent incident. “He said, ‘I know where you live.’ And I was like, ‘How?’ And at that time, I looked down at his hand and I could see a pocket knife,” she said.
“Basically it got to the point where a child pulled a knife on our daughter,” said Eric Whitney. “And we weren’t aware of it.”
Samantha was too scared to tell her parents, but said she did report the incident to her principal, Susan Walls. Her parents said the message didn’t get passed on.
“There are a lot of things that have happened that we don’t even know about, and we are not privileged to it because they say it’s confidential,” said Mary Whitney. “If you are not communicating to me, how am I to help my child?”
Autumn’s mother Patricia Hartzell feels the same way. “We went to the school district numerous times and made complaints,” she said. She said the school’s solution was to keep the girls inside for recess, which just made things worse.
“My husband was in her room talking to her and found a crumpled up piece of paper. He looked at it and it was a suicide letter,” Patricia Hartzell said.
Autumn explained what led up to it was a recent incident in class. “I felt this like movement on my desk. He was humping my desk. I didn’t feel safe, I went home crying. Honestly, I didn’t want to live that day,” she said.
CBS 5 saw similar questionable behavior going on in plain view on the school playground during a recent undercover visit.
“She didn’t think anybody would listen,” said Patricia Hartzell. “Which is true, the staff does not listen, they brush it off. “
The final straw for the girls’ parents was a torn t-shirt. Samantha said it happened when the boys were chasing her and tried to grab her. With no answers from the either the school or the district, both families took the matter to the police.
The police report reveals the alleged bullies admit “shoving” the girls and making sexually suggestive comments. CBS 5 wanted to ask Walls about it, but she didn’t want to talk to us.
The Vallejo City Unified School District wouldn’t talk to CBS 5 either, but sent us a statement that said, “The safety of our students is extremely important.”
“It seems like the school is not getting to the root of the problem,” said bullying expert Nicholas Carlisle. He runs “No Bully,” a non-profit that works to prevent bullying in schools.
Carlisle watched CBS 5’s video. “If it is true, that is what is known as a hostile environment,” he said. “The courts have repeatedly urged schools to remedy this or be subject to really quite significant amounts of damages.”
He said bullying cannot be taken lightly. “If you hear a child saying I don’t want to live, you have to immediately investigate it, because sadly, there are those students that don’t stop and go the whole way and take their lives. It seems like there’s a highly sexualized culture that is happening in this particular 5th grade. And the school in my view if it’s true needs to actively go in and do a piece of work with these students.”
Samantha and Autumn hope they can make a difference, by speaking out. “The main reason we are doing this is because we don’t want to feel like this any more.” Samantha said.
And we don’t want other kids to feel like we are feeling,” Autumn said.
Samantha and Autumn’s parents said they allowed their girls to go on camera because they thought it was important for them to speak out. The police have told them that the investigation is wrapping up, and will go to the district attorney next week.
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