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Cervantes: A wake up call against bullying

BY CHRISTOPHER CERVANTES | MAY 04, 2015 5:00 AM

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On Jan. 10, 2013, Bryan Oliver, a junior attending Taft Union High School in Taft, California, made a desperate and violent decision. He went to school that morning with a 12-guage shotgun and attempted to shoot two specific individuals.

One of the intended victims was wounded, and the other barely escaped. Both individuals survived the ordeal, and Bryan was charged as an adult with attempted murder. He is currently facing a 27-year sentence, with a possibility of parole in 13 years.

This incident occurred two years ago, yet it is still relevant now. After the shooting, evidence surfaced that showed an almost unforgivable amount of professional neglect by both the school and School District. As it turns out, his two intended victims had extensively bullied Bryan for the previous two years. His bullies beat him until he was bloody, spit on him, and verbally and sexually assaulted him. Furthermore, there were several dozen incident reports filed by both teachers and students to the School Board, stating that Bryan was the subject of incredibly intense bullying. Once all of this came to light, the School Board went on record stating that “they did not think it was that bad.”

It disgusts me that bullying is still a problem in our nation, but what Bryan’s case has shown is that the actions done by the authoritaties in response to the maltreatment of students by students is subpar. I am also not the only one who thinks this way. University of Iowa teaching assistant Katy Stang notes that “bullying is an often ignored topic unless it is an extreme circumstance. A lot of the time, people just chalk it up as something that just happens.”

I do not want to portray all school boards and educational systems as inept or that they all are dismissive of the victimization among their students. However, this type of neglect that has been shown by the Taft School Board is inexcusable and downright despicable. When parents drop off their children at school, they expect the children to be cared for and protected in the same paternal watchfulness that occurs in the home. When the children’s parents or guardians are found to be neglectful, then they are liable in a court of law. It is only logical and fair to treat educators the same way.

I was fortunate enough to interview Thomas Anton of Thomas Anton & Associates, the law firm that is handling the case against the School Board. When asked about his goal, Anton said he hoped to change the current methodology and structure of the handling of bullying. “What Bryan Oliver did was unacceptable,” he said. “However, so was the torment he faced.”

This case is an example of what happens when truly malicious and shocking acts of repeated, inhumane cruelty grow to fully consume an individual. I’ve known people who have been bullied. I was bullied. Luckily for the others, and me, someone helped us.

No one helped Bryan, and there aren’t enough helping the countless other bullied youth all over the country. As awful as it is to say this, I feel as if the severity of this incident may be what’s needed to fully reform the institutional response to bullying.


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