The family of a Hart High sophomore with a heart condition is frustrated by the school district’s response to bullying allegations, the family shared with The Signal this week, after she was offered a chance to transfer schools in response to several incidents, including one the victim recorded.
The parents of Nicole R., a sophomore at Hart High School, said they were shocked when the bullying happened again a little over a week ago, after several conversations with school administrators.
“(Nicole) has an atrial septal defect, which is a hole in her heart,” said Nicole’s father, Bob. “Any violent confrontation can cause extreme anxiety… or even a heart attack.”
The “incidents” which the parents say they found shocking, involved their daughter being both physically and verbally harassed by a group of girls at her school.
On Feb. 28, a group of girls who had been, according to Nicole’s parents, allegedly “terrorizing” their daughter for months while at school, physically threatening her, teasing her and causing her to have anxiety attacks, returned to pick on Nicole R. again.
Nicole recorded the incident.
“The same group of girls (who had been bullying Nicole through previous months) were now joined by additional girls (and were) walking by making threats,” said Bob R. “My daughter immediately called my wife then started recording.”
The video shows the girls approaching Nicole as she sits on her school’s bleachers, and the girls can be heard saying: “I’m about to throw my food at this (expletive)” and “bro, should I just bump this (expletive’s) face in.”
They then tell Nicole to stand up and when she refuses, the girls then tell her: “If we have to wait ‘til the bell, we’ll wait ‘til the bell… if we have to be late to class, we’ll be late to class.”
The targeting of Nicole, her parents say, started after she stood up for a friend earlier in November 2018. After the initial incident, the school reportedly received a series of complaints from the family regarding the escalation of bullying incidents and threats from the pack of girls.
“We were assured that the school would take the necessary actions to prevent another incident.
We also instructed our daughter to install a ‘floating button,’ on her phone home screen to record any further incidents,” Bob R. said.
But, according to the family, they began to pursue more information from the school on what corrective actions were being taken by Hart faculty following the latest incidents over the last couple of weeks.
In response, Hart High School Principal Jason d’Autremont said Hart Vice Principal Kullen Welch would be “taking care of the matter.”
“I can assure you that we will do everything in our power to make sure this does not happen again,” according to an email from d’Autremont dated Feb. 28, which was shared with The Signal.
Nicole’s father said she stayed home from school for a number of days following a March 5 incident in order to take her to a cardiologist and treat her “over-sensory perception” disorder.
“The stress, combined with her heart condition, gave her anxiety and a bloody nose (the) morning of March 5, when she was told the girls were looking for her,” he said.
Kathy Hunter, the director of student services for the Hart District, said the school would be working with the alleged victim’s family to take “appropriate action.”
After another incident on March 7, which involved Nicole and her friend receiving a text message saying the gang of girls plus a boy were now looking for her, Hunter responded saying the girls were “on lockdown” and offered to take Nicole out of school and put her on “home study until we have a full resolution.”
Both Hunter, as well as William S. Hart Union High School District Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht, deferred comment on the matter to Hart District spokesman Dave Caldwell.
“On all of our campuses, we strive to create caring and respectful environments (for) students,” Caldwell said. “We take instances of bullying very seriously, and we investigate and respond to each situation as is appropriate.”
Caldwell touched on the actions being taken to protect Nicole, “California state law and education code are very clear when it comes to student rights we follow those laws. The laws protect student privacy.”
He declined to comment further.
According to Nicole’s parents, the girls are still on campus and their daughter is still afraid to go to school everyday.
Nicole’s parents say that their fight isn’t with the district, but with the laws protecting the students who, they say, continue to harass their daughter on a daily basis.
According to Norma R. — Nicole’s mother — the school has told them the girls have been put on a disciplinary contract, but they have not been suspended or transferred from the school campus.
Education code and state law prevent the district from divulging what disciplinary actions are or would be taken. The family said they were told the girls haven’t been suspended because the state no longer has a “Zero Tolerance” policy for bullying.
“We feel that the bullies have more rights than the victims,” Norma R. said. “When is enough, enough? When do they start losing their rights, and the victims start gaining rights?”
Nicole said she declined to accept the school’s offer to transfer her to another school.
“Why should I be the one to be punished? I’m the victim,” Nicole said. “Staying home from school now means they win. And they shouldn’t get to win.”