A little more than a month after images flooded social media of a smiling Rosalie “Rosie” Avila with a neon heart fluttering around her head — forever linking her to the issue of schoolyard bullying — another Inland Empire 13-year-old girl attempted to end her life because of what her family is calling extreme bullying.
“I don’t know why they’re targeting my sister,” said Carolina Zarate on Thursday in a phone interview.
The identity of the Arrowview Middle School seventh-grader is not being released for her protection.
In the latest incident against the girl, Zarate and her mother, Sandra Ortega, of San Bernardino, said several girls went to Ortega’s home Tuesday night trying to lure the girl outside for a fight. As Ortega told the girls to leave, the frightened girl ran into the family bathroom, the San Bernardino mother said.
“I think she had a panic attack,” Ortega said Thursday from her daughter’s hospital room at Riverside County Regional Medical Center’s pediatric unit. “Then she went in and took the pills. They were my pills.”
Unaware of what her daughter had done, Ortega didn’t take the girl to the hospital until the teen began vomiting several hours later, Zarate and Ortega said.
After receiving initial treatment at St. Bernardino Medical Center in San Bernardino, she was transferred to the regional medical center in Moreno Valley. As of Friday morning, the teen had been released from the hospital.
“I’m thankful I still have my daughter here with me but now I want to know what the school is going to do,” Ortega said.
San Bernardino City Unified School District officials confirmed they were investigating a report of bullying that stemmed from an off-campus altercation between students, but said due to education codes, they were unable to confirm if the case they’re investigating involves Ortega’s daughter. Officials said district school police have been asked to assist with the investigation.
Arrowview Principal Berenice Rios sent a letter home Thursday alerting them to a bullying situation that’s under investigation.
“I’m providing you with this information in the hopes that we can work together to create a positive
learning environment for all our Arrowview Middle School students,” the statement said.
“I encourage each of you to sit down with your child and discuss with them how to choose kind words, how to follow expectations in the school setting, and how to be respectful to others and to themselves,” the statement continued. “And, if your child is experiencing conflicts with other students at our school or is being bullied, please inform us immediately so we can take appropriate action.”
Both Ortega and Zarate, who lives in Florida, say they have contacted Arrowview administrators about the ongoing bullying.
“My mother has been going to the school since October,” Zarate said. “I, myself, have called and asked them what they’re doing.”
Zarate said during one incident, the school placed the aggressive girl on a contract outlining consequences if she violated the terms of agreement.
“But then a friend of that girl kept bullying my sister,” Zarate said.
Both women have accused the school of not doing enough to protect the 13-year-old and were grateful they were not mourning their loved one like Rosie’s family — which has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District.
However, district officials said due to education codes, they are not allowed to share any disciplinary steps taken against other students.
“Because ed code is so strict about discipline and sharing any disciplinary issues with parties, we can’t tell parents what’s happening to another child,” said district spokeswoman, Maria Garcia, in a phone interview. “When (Rosie) passed away, our superintendent spoke at the board meeting about it, and once again renewed the commitment to provide a safe learning environment to all students. It does remind school administrators and educators that we all have a responsibility to prevent bullying situations from escalating.”
Garcia also noted that Arrowview staff has historically taken bullying seriously and have implemented various programs and concepts in the area of bullying and conflict resolution.
Ortega said her daughter was awake and alert Thursday and was fully aware of what she did, but she’s also expressed fear of returning to school.
“She doesn’t want to go back,” Ortega said Thursday. “She’s afraid of those girls, so right now I think I’m going to homeschool her until I can put her in another school.”
However, Zarate wonders why her sister has to be moved.
“People ask, ‘Why don’t you change schools?’ but why haven’t you guys resolved the problem of the other students?” Zarate asked.