Fresno mothers bond over shared experience of their children being bullied

Nic Garcia Image
Friday, March 3, 2023
Fresno mothers bond over shared experience of their children being bullied
Both mothers have kids who were bullied in incidents that were caught on camera and posted online.

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Dominica Powell and Holly Hayes recently met and bonded over a horrifying experience.

Both have kids who were bullied in incidents that were caught on camera and posted online.

Last year Action News told you about her son Jaden, a then-Kastner Intermediate student who was beat up inside a neighboring supermarket after school.

He hasn't returned to Kastner, but has taken up wrestling as an outlet to deal with the trauma of what happened.

More recently, on Feb. 14, Dominica Powell's daughter was attacked by a fellow student at Bullard High School.

Both moms say Clovis and Fresno Unified school officials didn't do enough to punish the attackers and say some have even accused them of blowing things out of proportion.

"How could you dramatize something that's facts. Everyone saw it with their own eyes," said Powell.

Fresno Unified declined an interview but told Action News necessary disciplinary action was taken. The district could not share specifics but shared this statement:

"There was an altercation at Bullard High School between two students before the start of school on February 14th. The school responded quickly and handled the incident in accordance with our policies, the law, and the education code. Parents of both parties were notified and appropriate discipline has been rendered. Appropriate social and emotional support is being provided and the school site is continuing to investigate and intervene to ensure the root of the problem is addressed to prevent any further altercations between the parties.

Violence at our schools is never okay. We recognize the suffering our students experience when they are involved in a fight at school, or even witnessing fights at school. The safety of our students is a top priority for our district, knowing that our students can only learn at their best when they feel safe. We also acknowledge how painful it is as a parent to see your student involved in a fight at school, and completely understand doing everything in your power as a parent to keep your child safe from harm."

Powell says her daughter is now attending school in a different district. She and Hayes are both paying close attention to their child's mental health.

Dr. Jason Christopherson of Ascend Behavioral Health says kids who have been bullied can sometimes exhibit a change in demeanor.

Both parents say they are determined to keep speaking out until real action is taken.

Clovis Unified School District told Action News that Kastner Intermediate has taken several steps after the incident last year. Here's what the school says it's done:

"At the time of the incident last year, leaders from the school and district committed to working collaboratively with parents and students to respond. Since then, there have been multiple steps taken to increase a culture of mutual respect amongst students, encourage anyone seeing or experiencing negative behavior to speak up and report it to administration, and to involve parents in these conversations around student safety. Here are some examples of steps taken by the school:

  • Parent Task Force: Multiple meetings of this Parent Task Force have occurred this year and last. At meetings, administration and parents discuss discipline guidelines and Ed. Code as well as investigation processes and consequences anytime a report of bad behavior is received. Additionally, the Parent Task Force shared their ideas of how to get more parental involvement on site and in assemblies surrounding diversity awareness and kindness at school.

  • Multicultural Student Advisory Committee (MAC): Administration and staff members have continued to meet with MAC students monthly to discuss topics such as culture/diversity supports, actions to encourage anti-racism, building diverse social groups, and visibility on campus. Just this week, the MAC and AASU student groups put on an assembly in honor of Black History Month with a focus on diversity and kindness. African Drum Interactive is coming to Kastner on Friday at lunch to teach kids how to drum using cultural drums that celebrate African heritage.

  • Advisory Period: A new Advisory period is being used to implement the Positivity Project curriculum with weekly focuses on specific character strengths such as gratitude, kindness, integrity, self-control, supporting others when they struggle, social intelligence, humility, love, and so much more. Anti-Bullying is embedded in daily conversations and practices by Kastner staff.

  • Additionally, at mid-semester (January) administration addressed Academic Block and PE classes to speak with students on empathy, culture/diversity, and the unacceptability of racism, and had discussions about how best to support students and for students to support each other. Based on student response, these types of small-group conversations will continue.

    The school leadership is also continuing to encourage students to make reports if/when someone is mistreating them or they see something happening in the student body. Monthly Principal's Corner videos are being sent to teacher to play and view in their classes during Advisory period so Principal Moua can continue to reinforce to all of our students what it is to be a Kastner Thunderbird as well update them on anything that is happening around campus."

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