Los Lunas High School student campaigning against bullying

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Supporters of Valencia County Youth Against Bullying were at a recent Los Lunas Board of Education meeting to raise awareness of what bullying does to youth in the community.

Jarred Gray, a freshman at Los Lunas High School, started the campaign on Facebook last month, and his group was there to let people know of the bullying problem in Los Lunas Schools.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas High School freshman, Jarred Gray, in front, and supporters for his campaign, Valencia County Youth Against Bullying, attended a recent school board meeting to raise awareness about bullying. Jarred’s father, Ray Gray, is pictured in the back row, far right.

“I think it’s really bad,” said Jarred. “I think it’s why Carlos (Vigil, a former Los Lunas High School student) killed himself. I’ve been bullied ― kids have been bullied at school, getting picked on, being called names … little things and big things.”

And it’s not just words being said, it’s also cyber attacks, said Gray’s father, Ray.

“You get it through the phones, you get it through text messages, through email, through Facebook,” Ray said. “For 14 years, we’ve been dealing with this.”

Over those years, Ray Gray has talked to three principals at three different schools about the bullying his son was receiving, but said he was never told what actions were taken to stop it, and ultimately it never stopped.

“Schools won’t tell you what they did because it’s private,” he said.

A lack of communication among school administrators, principals, parents, teachers and security officers is part of the problem, he said.

The VCYAB supporters were joined by the nonprofit biker group, Guardians of the Children Rio Grande chapter, and they all sat in the audience holding placards with anti-bullying messages.

“Jarred came to us and hoped to have some help, some back-up for him, so we’ve been here supporting him, doing what we can,” said Serenity Elsberry, secretary of the Guardians.

The district has an anti-bullying policy and needs to put a program in place, said Los Lunas Schools Assistant Superintendent Dana Sanders.

The district set up a program, Defender, and a bullying hot-line: 865-1082.

“In January, we trained all of our school administrators. The administrators are supposed to take it and then train their staff,” Sanders said. “We gave them a hot-line and some posters to put up, so the kids would have access to the hot-line.”

The hot-line is answered during the day, and at night there is a recording that is checked every morning, said Desi Garcia, the district’s director of safety, security and transportation.

“When we get the information, we address it,” Garcia said. “The act has to be repeated over time and there has to be intent to injure or harm. It’s not cyber bullying if it’s back and forth ― it has to be one sided.”

If the bullying happens off campus, school officials still have the authority to discipline students if they can establish that there is a direct, detrimental effect on the educational atmosphere, he said.

“But the bottom line is, if they don’t report it, we can’t address it,” Garcia said.

According to the student handbook, bullying is defined as any act or speech that subjects persons to indignity, humiliation, intimidation, physical abuse, social or other isolation, shame or disgrace, Garcia said.

“It is not just about Jarred,” Ray said. “He’s looking at the bigger picture now, and the bigger picture is that we know this is an epidemic that is going through all schools. If you watch the news … this is something that is going on all over the country and kids are dying over this.”

He would like school officials to come up with more effective consequences for bullying, such as having to stay after school and attend some type of rehabilitation, attend a teen court program or lose half an academic credit, he said.

Valencia County Youth Against Bullying can be found on Facebook, or on Instagram and Twitter by searching VCYAB.

T-shirts and bracelets are available for sale, and Jarred will have an information booth from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at a Family Fun Day organized by the Guardians of the Children. The event will take place at Agave Health, Inc., 750 Morris Road, in Los Lunas. About 20 service providers are expected to participate.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.