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El Rodeo Student Tells School Board About Being Bullied

Incoming sixth-grader John Gibb says he was harassed at school and that administrators did little to stop it.

In April, single mother Robina Gibb and her 10-year-old son, John, moved to California. Originally from London, they had lived briefly in Massachusetts before settling in Beverly Hills. But just a few days after starting fifth grade at , John became the victim of bullying.

“They have the power. They could actually stop the bullying completely but they’re not doing it,” John said of El Rodeo administrators in a conversation with Patch at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting. “They’re not doing anything.”

At the meeting, John told Patch that he has been subject to physical intimidation, mental and verbal abuse, and isolation by his peers. He described one incident when a classmate dumped a bag of popcorn on his head. There have also been notes passed to him in which other students write cruel comments and call him derogatory names.

Robina Gibb refers to her son’s school as a “lion’s den.”

“I’m really disappointed,” Gibb said of her son’s experience at El Rodeo. “On the last day of school he was still getting bullied.”

At his previous school in Massachusetts, John said there was a strong anti-bullying policy in place “very much unlike El Rodeo.” About to enter sixth grade, John is unsure whether he wants to return to the school for the next academic year.

“I’d like more discipline,” John said. “I’d like it to be more like [my] last school where it was really anti-bullying.”

His mother has contacted the city’s Parent-Teacher Association leaders, the and the school board to get bullying on the Beverly Hills Unified School District’s radar.

“I’ve been bullied many times,” John said during the public comment portion of the Board of Education meeting. “I don’t find that [administrators] handle it that well because they don’t do much about it. They kind of just say ‘Don’t bully,’ and that’s pretty much it.”

Robina Gibb spoke to the board as well and said that she and her son were “delighted to be in Beverly Hills,” but that John’s experience with bullying has overshadowed his life.

“When he said to me three days ago, ‘You know mom, I really don’t know if I want to go back to school,’ I thought ‘OK, I’ve got to do something about it,’ ” Gibb said to the school board. “El Rodeo has many, many things to offer. The principal did say to John that the door is open for him, but John was going in every day because it was happening every day.”

Gibb also said that the Maple Counseling Center has interns who are available to visit city schools to work on the issue of bullying.

The school board was unable to give an immediate response to the matter because it can address only items on the meeting agenda. But after John and Gibb spoke to the panel, board member Myra Lurie gave Gibb her business card and asked that she contact her to discuss the topic further.

In an email to Patch, Lurie wrote that “bullying is a very serious matter and the issue has become more complicated as technology lends itself to new modes and expanded capabilities.”

However, John said that he doesn’t have a Facebook account like many youth his age in an effort to avoid cyberbullying.

Dr. Alex Cherniss, the district’s assistant superintendent for business services, said the BHUSD has an anti-bullying policy. He said that administrators, teachers and support staff are trained on how to prevent bullying and how to intervene when it occurs. The penalties for bullying can include meetings with parents, detention, suspension and expulsion.

“The severity of the discipline is in line with the severity of the bullying matter,” Cherniss wrote in an email to Patch.

Board Vice President Brian Goldberg also responded to Patch's request for a comment on bullying in Beverly Hills schools.

“The real issue for me is how do we change the culture of bullying and create a bullying-free zone at our schools,” he wrote in an email to Patch. “Children model behavior they see, so if we are going to change the culture it has to be community-wide: parents, staff, administration, community.”

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Brian David Goldberg, PhD August 25, 2011 at 05:00 PM
It was so hard to listen to John and his mother speak about his experiences with Bullying and not be able to respond to their concerns in the moment. We have a problem and we need to do a better job of identifying those students who engage in bullying but we also need to empower the students standing by and doing nothing to stand up for those that our the victims and we need to empower the victims with tools and support to stand up and not be a victim. John did that last night by coming to the board and putting a face to the problem.
Marie Cunningham (Editor) August 25, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Thank you for the comment and thank you for lending your voice to the article.
paula namer August 25, 2011 at 08:02 PM
Bravo to both Robina and John. How brave for a !0 year old to speak openly about such a painful topic. And how thrilling to have a mom who is truly his champion. John's ability to express his feelings about his experiences set an example for courage. Not only is he helping himself, but aiding so many youngsters who suffer silently, because they may not have the forum or opportunity to come forward. I await the school's speedy and active interventions. Paula Namer, LCSW
sarah August 25, 2011 at 10:16 PM
Reading this concerns me as a mother but it also makes me wonder how this happen. My son transferred to the same school and class in March 2011, as a 5th grader. My son is the shy-type, but I remember him telling me that all the kids in class were very friendly and nice to him, and that he had adjusted to the class & school faster than the last school he went to for the last 5 years. The kids didn't make him feel like an outsider and the same thing I felt with school in general as my kindergarten also moved to El Rodeo. I can say that the kids are behaved and the teachers, staff and parents were wonderful and made us feel we belonged. I have met most of the kids from the same 5th-grade class on the 5th graders' graduation picnic as the kids joined me and my family, and that left me a good impression knowing that my son was new to their class. And yes, the school needs to probe deeper what could have caused the bullying as no kid should be subjected to it. Sarah M.
Patty Grubman August 26, 2011 at 04:04 AM
My son attended Hawthorne school from Kindergarten to 6th grade (2010). My son came home verbally and physically abused and the school and district stood by and did very little. Administrators talk a lot that staff are trained on how to prevent and intervene but the reality is they don't and the yard aids are useless. I was left with no choice but to move him to a private school. I can't speak for other schools in the district but in my opinion Hawthorne is not a mentally safe environment for any child. I tried to rally parents whose children were in the same situation but no one chose to rock the boat. The emotional scars will never heal but I am now grateful he is in a school that has a ZERO tolerance policy on bullying. Patty Grubman
Lewis Hall August 26, 2011 at 02:53 PM
I sympathize with John. When I was in 5th grade I was bullied to the point where kids threatened to "beat me up" after school. I had to hide in the library until I felt it was safe to leave. At that time, I had no hope of having teachers intercede on my behalf. That's different today. And I'm confident that when schools starts the teachers at El Rodeo (as well as all the schools) will be extra alert to inappropriate behaviors and will address these behaviors appropriately. If it is any consolation to John, when I started my 6th grade everything was fine. The summer seemed to cleanse the air, I made friends with some who had even threatened me, and my 6th grade was great.
the suspect August 26, 2011 at 03:18 PM
I remember when I was that age, my parents moved from the east downtown to WLA. The first day(s) I had to learn the schoolyard rules setup by the kids that ran the yard, namely by the punks that had established the pecking order of who's cool and who's not. And this was in Jr. High! After a few weeks of verbal abuse, things started to get ugly, the kids started to throw things at me, spit in my food. throw my books in the trash cans...then they started to push me around in the hall ways provoking a fight. A crowd of students would gather to watch the abuse and chant "kill the Jap! Kill the Jap!" I got my ass beat to a pulp that day. My parents told the teachers, but they did nothing I told my teachers but all they could say was ignore them, and I did which encouraged them to start extorting lunch money. I told my parents I had reached my limits, tired of being punching bag. My uncle had said my strength of resolve was admirable, and explained the law of the jungle where the weak hunt in packs, and the strong are feared. It was the alpha dog mentality.My uncle said it was time to establish a new order in the food chain. I was seen in the main lunch area in the yard. The pack was forming a circle around me and a lot of the class was there seeing a beatdown in the making. heeding my uncle's words I told the leader to leave me alone or there will be serious consequences. Of course they laughed, and proceeded to swing at me. I sent 5 of them to the hospital that day
Barbara George August 26, 2011 at 05:37 PM
When I was in the middle school portion of school (although it wasn't called middle school then), It seemed most of the bullying and ridiculing came from one of our male teachers who was also the coach. He'd find a student or two that he didn't care for, for some unknown reason, and he'd torment them while most of the other students laughed and joined in. The comments people make about beating up the bully or standing up to them doesn't usually work out for the best in the real world, (just in movies). The bullies are either bigger or with much more power.
Peter Montgomery August 26, 2011 at 06:23 PM
What are we creating here, I was forced bussed to a crappy school in an even worse neighborhood, my parents did not have the means to enroll my brothers and myself in private school but he did make sure we made friends with the neighborhood boxer who trained the local kids in his garage, yes it sucked but we knew how to protect ourselves at all times.....sucha wimpy society we have no heart.
Barry Brucker August 26, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Dear John, You are a courageous young man and your community is so proud of you for sharing your experience being bullied at the School Board Meeting. When my son was at BHHS, he and a couple friends worked with "Mothers against Drunk Driving" and put on a school-wide assembly about bullying. It was inspiring and many of those bullies were humbled as the school rallied around a commitment for a bully free campus. Every school campus should be a bully-free safe environment and it will only happen if we ALL (administrators, teachers, staff, parents, students and the community) join together. In light of your courageous act, I would like to invite you and your mother to City Hall and the Mayor's office for a tour and a visit to the Fire Department. In addition, you have my commitment to assist the School District in helping to find ways to stamp out bullying on our campuses. Please call my assistant in the Mayor's office Ms. Amy McHarg at 310-285-1013 to schedule a convenient time to meet. All the best, Barry Brucker, Mayor City of Beverly Hills
Barry Brucker August 26, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Dear John, You are a courageous young man and your community is so proud of you for sharing your experience being bullied at the School Board Meeting. When my son was at BHHS, he and a couple friends worked with "Mothers against Drunk Driving" and put on a school-wide assembly about bullying. It was inspiring and many of those bullies were humbled as the school rallied around a commitment for a bully free campus. Every school campus should be a bully-free safe environment and it will only happen if we ALL (administrators, teachers, staff, parents, students and the community) join together. In light of your courageous act, I would like to invite you and your mother to City Hall and the Mayor's office for a tour and a visit to the Fire Department. In addition, you have my commitment to assist the School District in helping to find ways to stamp out bullying on our campuses. Please call my assistant in the Mayor's office Ms. Amy McHarg at 310-285-1013 to schedule a convenient time to meet. All the best, Barry Brucker, Mayor City of Beverly Hills
paula namer August 26, 2011 at 08:44 PM
Kudos to you Mayor Brucker, for your rapid and appropriate intervention. It's comforting to know that we live in a community whose leaders are swift to intervene in the areas of safety and emotional health of our young. Paula Namer, LCSW
Debra Engle August 27, 2011 at 03:40 AM
My daughter had bullying begin in Middle School - LAUSD - and continued into high school with a total crisis. We need to pass a state law like others that if teachers or administrators see it happening they MUST contact not just the parents of the bullied students but also the parents of the bullies. It will take time to pass a state law but school districts can make it happen NOW. The LAUSD Elementary Theatre Program does an amazing new project with students where they learn how to stop bullying with adult intervention, bystanders, and the bullied! The district has no intervention required as of yet. Thank you Mayor in your town - wish it was happening across the US!
holland cross August 27, 2011 at 10:31 PM
After reading the article , I feel that the administrration did nothing because they did not want to be involved. Perhaps it will just go away, we will just sweep it under the carpet., no ,no nothing happening here in Pleasant school. My advice to John : Take up Martial Arts . You will have no more worries.
ltanya August 28, 2011 at 06:41 PM
There is a children's fiction book out about bullying. You can get it on 'smashwords'. The book is called 'CIRCUS'. It tackles self esteem issues, bullying, and never giving up no matter how bad your sItuation my be. It is a good read for kids 5th through 8th grade. There is no excuse for this schoool allowing this to happen. The administration knows who the bullies are, and it can be stopped.
Schmice August 29, 2011 at 01:23 AM
It appears that neither the Principal nor the administrators are capable of exercising firm leadership or the stewardship of this school. They need to be replaced. I'm sure that he is not the only student at El Rodeo to have been subjected to taunts and bullying from over- privileged brats whose parents either have no control over their children or don't believe that their little angels would do such a thing. These are the same parents who will later blame everybody else but themselves when their kids take the wrong turn and become parasites. I blame the often absent-from-responsibility parents. You know who you are (but don't really care). I pity your children. You have ruined them.
dianatreister August 29, 2011 at 04:47 PM
I am a docent at the Museum of Tolerance where we have great resources for issues like bullying. It might be a good idea to bring these students to the Museum and see a film, an open discussion on what bullying can do to the victim, and how all of us can learn not to be the bystanders. Bullying is an issue that must be addressed otherwise we are all the "bystanders"
Lewis Hall August 29, 2011 at 05:02 PM
It's good to have this resource so close by. The Beverly Hills schools should definitely take advantage of it.
Lynn Gidlow August 29, 2011 at 07:30 PM
It should be "required" by all schools and included in the scheduled field trips.
Marie Cunningham (Editor) August 29, 2011 at 09:06 PM
Thanks for the comment. A visit to the Museum of Tolerance is an excellent idea.
earhart November 17, 2011 at 01:02 AM
Both of them have been working, and it depends on your form of bullying. John has been misunderstood. The kids ("bullies") are rough football players. If John wants to tag along, then fine. He has to know how they play, and to think about if he wants to play rough. Like when he signed up for football, two other kids tried to take the ball from their friend. John joined the fray, jumped the guy, started grabbing and yelling, and In the process he was struck. Now he is afraid to play just because he was slapped.
earhart November 17, 2011 at 01:07 AM
Replacing the principal is an overreaction. These "over-privileged brats" have done nothing wrong. John needs to learn to adapt, and to make friends who share the same interests, instead of hanging out with kids who are bigger, stronger, and who play rough.
earhart November 17, 2011 at 01:10 AM
Martial Arts will not solve this "problem." The administration did do something, but you can't fix a problem that is not really there.
earhart November 17, 2011 at 01:13 AM
That is a great idea. That would discourage any students having ideas about bringing bullying to El Rodeo.
earhart November 17, 2011 at 01:21 AM
I agree. It feels good to know that there is help nearby should a bully problem come up.
earhart November 17, 2011 at 03:32 AM
I know right?! El Rodeo is completely safe, and all that is the same and true for El Rodeo's 6th grade, the grade John is in now.
earhart November 17, 2011 at 03:35 AM
I don't know what Hawthorne is like, and I understand how you feel. El Rodeo has a absolutely zero tolerance for bullying. I'm sorry for what your son had to go through. What school is he in now? Sounds like a great school.
Lily Daisy April 26, 2012 at 02:07 AM
I am sad to learn that more has not been done for this young 10 year old boy. Of course we must all chime in with our distain for bullying, but in the meantime, a school boy (and probably others) is suffering from the bullying and also the ongoing fear that results from inappropriate inaction from the school leaders, namely the Principal and the teacher of the perpetrators. I hope they (school leaders) get their plan launched for a no tolerance bullying policy that will protect the children of El Rodeo.

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