Online school: The way out for bullying victims?

By Charity Lindsey | Desert Dispatch | December 12, 2015

Hesperia parent turns to CAVA for relief for her sixth-grader

With one out of every four students reporting being bullied during the school year, according to StopBullying.gov, online school has become an ideal option for some families. Such was the case for one Hesperia family.

Although Hesperia resident Esther Hiers eventually sought this option for her son, who she says was being physically and verbally bullied at Adelanto Elementary, her immediate reaction wasn’t to pull him out.

Hiers first went through the school’s method of reporting an incident of bullying, and waited.

Her sixth-grade asthmatic son, Joel, continued to come home heaving and bruised after being repeatedly punched. When Joel showed up in a full asthma attack during the middle of a school day after he’d climbed the school’s fence to escape his bullies, Hiers said she knew she had to take action.

Hiers said that after many meetings with Joel’s teacher, the principal and school district officials, all that she was told was that “they’d investigate it.”

Adelanto Elementary Principal Ramon Rizo said that when reports of bullying are received, “it’s a process” to address them.

“We talk to the students, talk to teachers, parents,” Rizo said. “We try to make it a team effort.”

Adelanto Elementary School District officials said they could not comment on any specific case of bullying to protect minor confidentiality.

“When they get to the district level, we take all the complaints very seriously,” AESD Director of Child Welfare and Attendance Peter Livingston said. “The difficulty often times is that schools don’t know it’s going on. Once the school site does know, we can start the investigation to put in place mechanisms to address bullying.”

But even after all of this, Hiers said that Joel’s bullies continued. She said her son never noticed any change in his abusers, nor any absence that might have been attributed to disciplinary action.

“I told the school I started paperwork to get him in CAVA,” Hiers said, referring to Joel’s current online school, California Virtual Academies. “A child cannot learn anything if they’re worried about someone trying to hit them.”

Joel began at CAVA this school year, and Hiers said that since then he’s become “a much happier kid.”

“He’s able to concentrate on his studies better because he doesn’t have to worry about being bullied,” Hiers said. “He’s not coming home with tears anymore.”

Although at online schools like CAVA there is still a risk of cyberbullying, which about 12 percent of grade level students report experiencing according to StopBullying.gov, school officials said that all student interaction can be monitored by the teachers.

CAVA Academic Administrator April Warren said that bullying is a very common reason why students try the online program.

“Often either the student is experiencing bullying personally or the parent has been made aware of what they consider (is) an unsafe campus and want to try to keep their child out of that environment,” Warren said.

Warren said that online school is “very second nature” for students today, and that although “it’s not a model that works for every child,” it is “a natural solution” for many.

“What I’ve noticed is that students are able to really blossom and grow because there’s that little bit of protection not sitting in front of people and wondering what they’re thinking about you,” Warren said. “You’re able to come out of your shell a bit more.”

This has been exactly the case for Joel, according to his mother.

“He couldn’t make friends very well in regular school,” Hiers said. “He has friends at CAVA and he’s playing with the other kids.”

Joel has the opportunity to play with his peers at CAVA’s “Community Days,” which are held weekly at various sites close to families, including Hesperia for Joel’s class.

Warren said that CAVA and other grade school online programs aren’t usually much like college online classes like many people might think, instead providing students with “a lot of hands-on activity” and “a lot more flexibility.”

“Ultimately it should be about finding the program that fits the child, instead of trying to make the child fit the program.”

Read full article here.

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