More Vallejo Parents Say School District Not Responding To Bullying
VALLEJO (CBS 5) — More complaints have surfaced following a CBS 5 investigation into bullies terrorizing students in a Bay Area school district.
Recently, two 10-year-old girls who attend a Vallejo elementary school told CBS 5 they are constantly being sexually harassed, and their school isn’t doing anything about it. Now we’re hearing from victims of bullies at a middle school in the same district.
Cellphone video posted on YouTube showed a brutal attack in a schoolyard at Hogan Middle School in Vallejo. The video shows a girl struggling to defend herself while other students watch and even laugh.
11-year-old Annisia Williams was the girl getting pummeled in the video. She is still confused about what happened. Williams lost consciousness, and had to be hospitalized for a concussion.
It’s not an isolated case. Victoria Lopez, an 8th grader at Hogan, said she too was grabbed by the hair, thrown to the ground and viciously beaten.
So was her best friend Cynthia Benavidez. She said the bullying started with a threat. “She said, ‘Do you have a problem with me?’ and I said no. And she said, ‘Well, I don’t like you.’”
Soon after Cynthia said she was attacked from behind, suffering cuts and bruises. Her arm is still scarred.
All three girls said they had no idea why they were targeted. “They just attack you for no reason,” said Cynthia.
In police reports, witnesses confirmed the attacks were “unprovoked” and victims “never attempted to fight back.”
Police were called to Hogan Middle School 179 times since September 2011, the highest number of calls among Vallejo middle schools. Parents said that bullies are often the reason for the calls, and that bullying has gotten out of control.
“These kids are vicious, and this is how they make a name for themselves,” said Annisia’s mother LaDonna Williams. But even worse she said, is the lack of response from the school.
“There was no school nurse called. No one came to her aid at all, while they cleaned up the bloody mess,” she said. “A crime had actually been committed in my opinion at that school and I feel that the principal there at Hogan had covered it up.”
Victoria and Cynthia’s mothers agree. “I was upset that the school did not call the police. Why did I have to call the police? Why do I have to take her to the hospital? Where is the attacker?,” said Victoria’s mother Trini Lopez.
“They don’t take bullying seriously,” said Cynthia’s mother Sandra Benavidez.
They said the bullies were suspended, but they threatened and intimidated their daughters again. “I went to the superintendants office, I went to the school district, I got the runaround,” said Trini Lopez.
Meanwhile their daughters said while the bullies roam free, victims like themselves are isolated. “They hide us, they put us in the library. I think that is wrong because we are not doing anything wrong,” said Victoria Lopez.
Hogan Middle School did not respond to CBS 5’s request for an interview. But the Vallejo City Unified School District responded.
“If they are still saying that is going on, please ask them to come see me, because that truly should not be happening,” said the district’s La Tonya Derbigny.
As director of school and student accountability Derbigny investigates bullying complaints. “I think it’s important that we take every allegation seriously, because what if they are telling the truth?” she said.
She said many attacks may actually be staged fights. “Usually, almost always, there are students who help to arrange it,” she said. “If there is a video and we have that information, and we see that information, we are going to deal with that appropriately.”
But Ladonna Williams said the district did see the video of her daughter’s brutal beating, and still did nothing about it. “They have all these policies on the books but they are useless,” she said.
Meanwhile, eight months after that attack, her daughter Annisia still has to take medication for her concussion. And even though she has left Hogan, she still lives in fear.
“I want parents to understand that when something like this happens, your safety and your sense of well being is forever shattered,” Ladonna Williams said.
Vallejo Unified wouldn’t talk to CBS 5 about any specific students or even schools. However, we have learned that Ladonna Williams has filed a lawsuit against the district.
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