Her name is Rosalie Avila…she was only 13 years old. She was in the 8th grade. She could have had a bright future. She could have realized her dreams. She could have had a whole different experience in her short life. She should have. She and countless other children like her have left us too early and unnecessarily. Rosalie hung herself at her family home in Yucaipa, California on December 1, 2017. She was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced brain dead. She was taken off life support three days after she was found hanged. She left behind a suicide note apologizing to her parents and a journal which chronicled several instances of bullying that lead to her taking her life. Rosalie, we are so sorry that your pain led you to end your life. And we will not let your death be in vain.
I did not know this child, but I know this child. We all do.
Why are kids committing suicide? Why have we allowed a long time problem to go unchecked? Why aren’t we aggressively addressing bullying in our schools? We can say that we are, but we really are not, especially when young students are at the breaking point. Bullying is not a new concept. It’s been around for at least as long as we have had public education and probably before the first school houses were built in what is now the USA. However, it has reached heights that are intolerable and kids are literally dying because of it. It is time to stop the bullying in our schools. Everyone has a role to play in doing so.
We are seeing stories of children from 9 to 12 years old committing suicide over bullying. Although kids do get bullied in elementary school, middle school is where it begins to worsen. Kids get meaner, and it’s a tumultuous time for student in that age group. During this time, the body begins to develop and change as it transitions from child to adult. Hormones are working overtime to sustain the rapid changes and growth that the body endures. This increase in hormones can cause extreme reactions and behaviors. For this reason, we see kids in middle school endure bullying at a higher rate than those who are in elementary or high school (when changes begin to balance out). So middle school can be a precarious time for our children. It’s also the time when parents start to give their kids little more independence and in some cases, become less involved in the day to day activities of their children. This is a mistake. This is the time when you need to double down on the communication and know when something is bothering your student.
A mom in Tennessee recently made a heart wrenching viral video of her teen son, Keaton Jones, who is currently struggling with bullying in school. It’s extremely difficult to watch. It will anger you. There are so many questions. What have school officials done to resolve the issues with Keaton? The child is in crisis. I hope the school administrators in Tennessee take this cry for help seriously. There is now no denying the issue, since the video has gone viral and has been viewed 16 million times! Celebrities and athletes are running to rally for Keaton.
And what about Rosalie? What was done in her case? Did school administrators ignore and/or dismiss the complaints from parents? Rosalie’s parents are demanding answers from the school and the district. I have had close personal experience with the superintendent of the district, and I doubt that she will provide any answers or solutions for that matter.
What we need to do right now is demand aggressive anti-bullying policies. We need solutions for these kids. In Connecticut, a school district has developed an app to help curb bullying in its schools. The phone app, called Anonymous Alert is for middle and high school students to report acts of bullying in a safe and anonymous way. This is great, but what happens once the report is made? Who will follow up? How will it be handled? How will parents know it’s been resolved? Would this have helped Rosalie? I don’t know. But I do know that we need to be very in tune with our kids in both middle school and high school and put bullies and their parents on notice.
We won’t forget you Rosalie…rest in power.
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