TVUSD parents attend second meeting on bullying in Temecula schools

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David Vialpando speaks to parents and community members at The Empowerment Center, Wednesday, Nov. 20. Will Fritz photo

Parents speaking out against what they said is bullying in Temecula schools and inaction on the part of the Temecula Valley Unified School District met for a second time Wednesday, Nov. 20, at The Empowerment Center in Temecula to follow up on their concerns and recommendations that they plan to bring to district leaders.

David and Alicia Vialpando, the organizers of the meeting, were behind a similar meeting earlier in November when several parents said they have attempted to address bullying directed at their children, who attend various Temecula Valley Unified schools, for years with little success.

The Vialpandos said one child who is now in college and another who is a freshman at Great Oak High School have both experienced bullying problems that they brought to the attention of administrators on multiple occasions.

Just like the first meeting, this meeting was held at The Empowerment Center, a nonprofit that provides free and low-cost youth programs. And just like last time, some ground rules were laid down at the beginning of the meeting.

“The Empowerment Center is a neutral space, a safe space for everybody to be able to lend their voice with respect for one another,” Eboni Lawrence with The Empowerment Center said. “I know we’ve all experienced some things that may let out some passion and some fire, but we also want to make sure we’re entreating everybody and we’re speaking with respect as we do that.”

And there was indeed plenty of high emotion, although everyone did their best to stay respectful.

One woman, Ana Rivera-Ramirez, said her daughter was in a leadership position in band at Great Oak High School several years ago when she was physically bullied by a former friend.

“My daughter said, ‘They told me if I fight back, if I do anything, I’m gonna lose everything. How does it look if I fight back and I lose everything?’” Rivera-Ramirez said.

She said the school failed to keep her daughter away from her bully despite repeated conversations with administrators.

“She came to us in the middle of the night when she was at the end of her rope – she was taking a bath, and while she was taking a bath, she said suicide came to mind,” Rivera-Ramirez said. “When I have a daughter that was suicidal because you can’t do your own job, you and me have a problem.”

Another woman, who asked not to be identified, said her son was attacked in a locker room at Temecula Valley High School earlier this year and left badly injured.

“I ended up not having my son ever go back there,” she said. “We ended up putting him in a private school.”

Some Temecula Valley Unified officials, including district representative Laura Boss and district Board of Education trustee Julie Farnbach, were present in an unofficial capacity.

Boss said previously after the last meeting that she and other representatives present “were inspired by the attendees’ passion, initiative and interest in partnering with the district to explore and develop strategies and solutions to address bullying. This is a family, school (and) community issue, and we need to work together.”

Farnbach spoke to the parents present about her and her children’s own experiences with bullying, though she asked that her comments not be shared publicly.

David Vialpando said his goal is to get TVUSD trustees to approve policy changes for how the district deals with bullying at a board meeting in the near future.

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.