PHOENIX — How people define bullying at a Phoenix school has a Valley mom engaged in a legal battle with priests and administrators at St. Agnes Catholic Elementary School.
“I just want to know, where is their compassion, their empathy?” asked parent Dominique Rivas. “I expect so much more from a faith-based school.”
The incidents started last year when Dominique’s daughter, Julia, 10, was forced to take medication that made her gain a few pounds. The bullying began, according to Dominique, when’s Julia’s body started to change.
“It started with chalk drawings outside the classroom of how fat she is compared to them, and they’d laugh at her,” said Rivas. “She needed glasses and the kids made fun of her. By the end of the day, a child took her glasses and broke them in half.”
Julia’s parents have tried to be loving and supportive, but they said they find themselves frustrated and angry being in a losing battle with administrators — who, according to the Rivas family, aren’t doing enough to address students’ relentless bullying of their daughter. School officials vehemently deny her claim.
The young girl — described by administrators as a smart, pleasant child — relayed a few instances where she was too scared to say or do anything to the perpetrators.
According to the girl, for three months, boys would prevent the her from eating.
“People stole my lunch and told me I was too fat to eat.”
School administrators said they investigated every incident reported by Julia’s mother and took action when appropriate. Dominique has documentation of nearly a dozen incidents where children’s behavior could be classified as bullying, but often the term is up for interpretation.
“We didn’t think it rose to the level of bullying,” said Fr. Bradley Peterson, who oversees the school and church.
The principal Denise Campbell said she believes Julia might be overly sensitive, as many fourth grade girls often are.
“We have to take time to talk through the problems,” said Campbell. “We have a counselor that goes into the classrooms and helps the girls deal with those problems.”
The situation finally came to a head when the mother confronted a teacher on campus and asked the woman if it would take a suicide for the school to put an end to the bullying. Dominique’s actions were deemed disruptive and bordered on harassment. Soon after the incident at the school, Julia’s parents received an invitation to meet with Peterson.
In a taped recording of that meeting, Peterson asked the family to sign an agreement banning the frustrated mother from the campus along with the stipulation that Julia was not to be enrolled there the following school year.
When the couple refused to sign the agreement, the soft-spoken priest can be heard saying, “So you’re refusing to sign it, then you’ll have to take Julia home.”
The 10 year old has not been back to school since classes were let out for Spring Break — a decision Peterson made for Julia during a tense meeting between the girl’s parents and the priest.
“I just want to know what I did wrong,” said Julia, whose parents have been trying to shield her from the situation.
The child currently is not attending any school. Her mother claims other Catholic schools have heard about the situation and aren’t interested in allowing the child to be enrolled. Public schools aren’t an option for the rest of this school year because of AIMS requirements, Rivas claims.
The family has created a Facebook page looking for public support for Julia’s case.
Whether the child was invited to finish out the remainder of the school year has been debated by both parties. Julia’s future at St. Agnes lies in the hands of attorneys who are trying to find a solution that puts her best interests first.
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon