The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office says charges have been filed against a San Luis Obispo High School student accused of bullying another student.
The 15-year-old boy was taken into custody after police investigated his treatment of a 15-year-old autistic boy at the school.
“My initial reaction was, I was disturbed,” said local mom Julie Ingram.
Detectives say the teen had been bullying the other boy since the beginning of the school year.
“I feel especially for the victim but also the aggressor,” Ingram continued. “I mean, what is going through your mind that you feel that you have to pick on another student?”
Police say the aggressor threatened to physically hurt the victim because of his autism and the two boys got into a physical altercation at the school in late February.
“The parents of the victim had contacted us and were concerned about the nature of the threats,” said Capt. Chris Staley, San Luis Obispo Police Department.
The victim was also allegedly sent “threatening and derogatory text messages related to his special needs and perceived sexual orientation,” Staley said.
When the suspect found out about law enforcement’s involvement, police say he threatened the victim again.
The teen was arrested on one misdemeanor charge of criminal threats and two felonies — a hate crime and witness intimidation.
“We don’t see a lot of these but occasionally we do hear about these types of crimes,” Staley said.
The topic of bullying hits close to home for SLO High School grad Bonnie Ayers and her brother.
“It got to the point where he couldn’t actually go to school there anymore,” Ayers said about her brother. “He was bullied much worse than I was and I kind of got picked on as well.”
The San Luis Coastal Unified School District said it could not comment directly on the case due to the open investigation but did mention a recent student survey taken by 84 percent of the school.
“Students overwhelmingly say that they feel safe and feel that students on campus treat them well,” said Assistant Superintendent Kimberly McGrath.
“We need to treat each other as equals no matter how we grew up or our mental disability or anything like that,” Ayers concluded.
The student was booked into the San Luis Obispo County Juvenile Services Center with bail set at $75,000.
The superintendent has also formed a task force to help with practices and policies to make students feel more included.
The school district is also set to have the second reading of its hate-motivated behavior policy during its March 13 meeting.