Losing a child is never easy, especially when the family believes it could have been prevented. Late last month, 13-year-old Rosalie Avila of Calimesa, California, “hanged herself in her bedroom “following months of relentless verbal abuse and bullying from classmates.” As a result, Avila’s family intends to “file a wrongful death lawsuit against the school district, accusing the girl’s middle school of failing to stop the bullying that the family says led to her death.”
Losing a child is never easy, especially when the family believes it could have been prevented. Late last month, 13-year-old Rosalie Avila of Calimesa, California, “hanged herself in her bedroom “following months of relentless verbal abuse and bullying from classmates.” As a result, Avila’s family intends to “file a wrongful death lawsuit against the school district, accusing the Mesa View Middle School of failing to stop the bullying that the family says led to her death.”
According to Brian Claypool, the attorney for the family, Avila attended Mesa View Middle School. While attending the school, “classmates would taunt her and call her names, including ‘whore’ and ‘slut.’” Additionally, she was regularly called ugly and told she had “ugly teeth and sexually transmitted diseases,” Claypool alleges.
As if the verbal abuse wasn’t enough, the family claims “classmates doctored a video portraying what an ugly girl looked like and what a pretty girl looked like, using Avila’s photo to represent the ugly girl.” According to Claypool, that particular video went viral.
Understandably, Rosalie left behind two grief-stricken parents. When speaking to news reporters earlier this month, Rosalie’s mother, Charlene, said, “In her suicide note, Rosalie apologized for being ugly.” She added that “her daughter kept a list in her journal of people who hurt her, called her ugly or put her down.”
When discussing the treatment her daughter endured, Fred Avila, Rosalie’s father, said that “she would come home and complain that kids were calling her names about her teeth.” Even when he would remind her that “her braces would come off one day,” she typically responded by saying, “Yeah, but my teeth are straight and they’re still making fun of me.”
Sadly, Rosalie fell into a depression and began cutting herself in October. All the while Claypool alleges the “school did not intervene despite allegedly knowing of the struggles Avila was facing.” In a press release, he said: “The school was not only aware of the bullying, but also of Rosalie cutting herself and did nothing.” He continued, claiming the “school was negligent in its failure to take appropriate measures to safeguard Rosalie as a victim of bullying and ensure her safety, as well as its failure to take action against the bullies.”
So how has the school and the district responded to the allegations? Well, earlier this month the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District (YCJUSD) said it was “saddened by Avila’s death and that crisis counselors were available to students.” In an initial statement released on Dec. 1 the district said:
“The communities of Yucaipa and Calimesa have proven to be caring, united, active, supportive communities in all manner of events, whether joyful or sorrowful. The district earnestly believes and hopes that those qualities will continue to come to bear here as we are all committed to the well-being and support of everyone in the YCJUSD family.”
Shortly after, another statement was released on Dec. 4 that claimed the district was “cooperating with investigators over the bullying allegations,” and that “‘false’ information had spread in response to the news of Avila’s death.” The statement read:
“Sadly, as the public learns about this tragedy, false rumors and social media posts disrespecting Rosalie and her family have begun to spread. These posts are being handled by the appropriate authority.”
The second statement also emphasized that the district is “committed to maintaining a positive, inclusive school culture that enables our students to grow academically and socially. This issue requires all of us to work together, to watch for signs and intervene when we see problems. It is more essential than ever that we all come together, united in our commitment for the safety and well-being of our children.”
For now, Claypool plans on announcing the lawsuit on Monday, and together he and Rosalie’s family want to “propose new legislation called Rosie’s law that will advocate for stricter bullying laws to treat verbal abuse in the same manner as physical abuse.” It is their hope that such legislation would make it “so that school districts will begin having harsher punishments for the perpetrators of bullying rather than shielding the bullies.”