The family of a 13-year-old girl who killed herself has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Yucaipa School District, claiming school officials didn’t do enough to stop the bullying their daughter suffered.
Rosalie Avila hung herself on Nov. 28 after classmates viciously bullied her for months, calling her nasty names and saying she had sexually transmitted diseases. They even circulated a video describing “what an ugly girl looked like and what a pretty girl looked like and used a picture of Rosalie to portray the ugly girl,” according to a news release from last week.
Fred Avila, Rosalie’s father, told KABC-TV that his daughter frequently came home from school and complained that other kids made fun of her teeth. When he reminded her that her braces would come off one day, Rosalie said her teeth are straight but still gets taunted.
The family’s lawyer, Brian Claypool, said that Avilas continuously reported the bullying to the school district, but they failed to do anything about it. He said that schools don’t like to talk about bullying because they lose out state and federal funding if they have to expel a student.
“Until school districts nationwide step up and implement legitimate anti-bullying programs and on-campus suicide prevention programs, rampant bullying and suicide will worsen,” he added. “Public image is more important to many school districts than student safety. Current anti-bullying laws and policies often protect the bully more so than the victim.”
The Yucaipa School District released a press release Monday that said, “We strive every day to be a safe, supportive and engaging learning environment. We will continue to raise awareness and work with students and the community to support our children. The issue of suicide awareness and prevention is very important to discuss and address as a community.”
Claypool and the Avila family intend to propose Rosie’s Law, which will advocate for stricter bullying laws to treat verbal abuse in the same manner as physical abuse.
This isn’t the first time a student has committed suicide over bullying. In November, 10-year-old Ashawnty Davis killed herself two weeks after she got into a fight with a student. According to Ashawnty’s mother, she was confronting a bully.
Another student recorded the fight and posted it on an app called Musical.ly. When the Cherry Creek School District was informed about the video, they spoke to the students involved, contacted their parents and gave the video to the Aurora police.
However, Ashawnty’s parents don’t think the school district did enough.
“There was nothing done about it. When I got the call telling me that my daughter had been in a fight, they never gave me the opportunity to meet with the other parents to come to the bottom of the line,” her mother Latoshia Harris said.
Ashawnty’s family wants to hold educators accountable for bullying incidents and create an anti-bullying policy that works.