School bullying, teen suicide spark lawsuits against IE district

Rob Hayes Image
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
School bullying, teen suicide spark lawsuits against IE district
Multiple lawsuits claim the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District fails to protect students from bullying, including a 13-year-old girl who hanged herself.

YUCAIPA, Calif. (KABC) -- Widespread allegations of bullying have been plaguing an Inland Empire school district for years.

Parents say their kids are being victimized and no one is doing anything to protect them.

So far, half a dozen families have filed lawsuits.

Two cellphone videos captured one incident, a brutal student-on-student attack at Yucaipa High School last May.

The girl who is seen getting pummeled was already seeing a therapist for suicidal tendencies.

"She swung on me three times and I ended up on the floor where she swung 10 more times and hit me worse," said Savanna Blakken. "I did not hit back once.

Blakken says this was another example of bullying that she experienced at the school.

Her attorney says the school knew she was suicidal and that she was being bullied, yet did nothing to protect her.

"This is the sixth lawsuit that we have had to file against this hapless school district," said attorney Brian Claypool. "They simply do not take bullying seriously."

One of Claypool's six cases is that of Mesa View Middle School student Rosalie Avila.

Claypool says the 13-year-old was bullied at school to the point she hanged herself at home in November 2017.

He points the finger at the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District.

"It has created a culture that promotes bullying," Claypool said.

The school district released a short statement saying it is aware of this latest attack.

"We take incidents of this nature extremely seriously," the district said. "We responded according to our policies for student discipline, and have been working in cooperation with law-enforcement."

Savanna's mother says she told the school her daughter was being bullied several times before the attack and it did nothing.

"When you drop your children off at school you expect them to be safe," Crystal Blakken said. "And supervised at the very least."

As for the girl throwing the punches?

Claypool says she was suspended for two days and is still playing on the girls basketball team.

In the meantime, Savanna has left Yucaipa High School but is hoping this lawsuit will change the way the district handles bullying.

Her family is also hoping the attacker in the video will face not just school discipline, but a judge as well.

"If we don't have prosecution of bullies, then this pattern is going to continue in Southern California schools," Claypool said.