Peer to peer crimes more common than reported bullying within Azusa Unified School District

Bullying has become a popular discussion recently, especially since the developing of technology has made it easier to bully through social media and instant messaging. In the Azusa Unified School District, bullying is taken very seriously, and has instituted policies so that such instances are lessened, however, the presence of peer to peer crime is significantly more common.

According to Gary Creel, the director of Child Welfare and Attendance for the AUSD, there are about 10,000 students who attend schools within the district.

Image: Josh Contreras, There are 17 schools in the Azusa Unified School District, 11 elementary, 3 middle schools, and 3 high schools. The high schools include one from Glendora, Azusa, and Covina.

Image: Josh Contreras, There are 17 schools in the Azusa Unified School District, 11 elementary, 3 middle schools, and 3 high schools. The high schools include one from Glendora, Azusa, and Covina.

Officer Roland Martinez, the Azusa High School resource officer from the Azusa Police Department, stated that bullying is usually not reported to the police. Officer Martinez has dealt with less than five bullying cases reported for the duration of his ten-month tenure as the school resource officer.

“For high schools, it doesn’t occur much. There are other things that happen on campus, one of the main things is theft of cell phones, skateboards, and sometimes bikes. As far as bullying being specifically reported to police, it’s rare,” said Officer Martinez. Martinez stated that bullying reports usually are taken through the administrative route.

Bullyingstatistics.org state that one out of every four students will experience bullying during adolescence.

John Magnusson, principle of Gladstone High School for 14 years, stated that there are reports of bullying about once a week. Many of the cases he deals with come from students who are uncomfortable with rude looks or social media posts. Threatening cases that are more serious, they arise once every couple months, according to Magnusson.

Magnusson talked about the process of handling situations of bullying, “When something like this happens, we listen to the victim and then go right to the alleged perpetrator. Sometimes, parents don’t want their children mentioned, but we are required to do something about the situation…because it also can be a false allegation. We have to be specific with the person and investigate it.”

Image: Josh Contreras, When a student feels they are a victim of bullying, they are encouraged to report it to the administrative authorities.

Image: Josh Contreras, When a student feels they are a victim of bullying, they are encouraged to report it to the administrative authorities.

Paul Naccachian, Azusa Unified School District Board of Education member, stated, “Our policies relating to anti-bullying is strongly responsive-preventive covering a wide spectrum of protection, inclusive of the LGBT, handicap, race, economically disadvantaged related bullying and so on. It encourages teachers, administrators or even students who may witness such behavior to report to the appropriate chain of command, whether principal or district administrator.”

When developing policies, Naccachian discussed the process in a three-step challenge that arises. They are development, implementation and preventive efforts.

“The model essentially requires [the board] to understand the scope of a problem, identify the key individuals who will pioneer the enforcement of a policy and to what extent education or training about the issue itself becomes a component to execute preventive measures. These are challenges the board has to consider,” stated Naccachian.

Child Welfare and Attendance director Creel discussed social media, and how it plays a significant role in bullying. “Developing technology has made it easier to bully someone and has depersonalized it. Policies and procedures have evolved to include “cyber-bullying,” said Creel. Director Creel also stated that cyber-bullying usually takes place off campus and outside the limitations placed by district rules.

Image: Josh Contreras, The Azusa Unified School District deals with bullying, and educates students not to harm their peers through bullying.

Image: Josh Contreras, The Azusa Unified School District deals with bullying, and educates students not to harm their peers through bullying.

According to the California School Board of Education, districts are required to educate students about bullying and social media ethics. Magnusson stated that schools in the Azusa Unified School District give students handbooks discussing this matter, and rather than convincing them not to bully other students, it warns them of the consequences.

Magnusson makes this point because during high school years, adolescents of this age have already begun solidifying who they are going to be. Therefore, trying to convince someone not to do something because it is not moral is not likely to prevent them from doing so, but perhaps presenting them with the possible consequences will, according to Magnusson.

Director Creel talked about the limitations of school intervention, “Students are accountable to school rules while at school, at a school activity, on school grounds, or when coming to or going from school. If a student is threatening or bullying another student outside of these parameters, the school has very little recourse.”

Image: Josh Contreras, California's education code protects students who are victims of bullying within the parameters of school activities, on school grounds, and walking to and from school. Outside of the parameters, schools have no authority in the conflict.

Image: Josh Contreras, California’s education code protects students who are victims of bullying within the parameters of school activities, on school grounds, and walking to and from school. Outside of the parameters, schools have no authority in the conflict.

Martinez believes social media makes bullying easier as well, but also stated that usually, these cases of student-to-student conflicts result in crimes committed against each other.

Martinez shared an instance where a peer to peer conflict brought about an altercation between students. “We had an incident the other day where there was a big group of people, and teachers walked out from inside the gym. There was about 20 kids who walked away, and there is one kid on the floor who lost consciousness after being struck during a fight. When he came to, he didn’t remember what happened,” said Martinez.

Officer Martinez said a teacher did some research on twitter, and found a video posted by another student which showed the fight was mutual.

According to Martinez, peer to peer crimes happen multiple times a day, including theft, fights, or harassment.

Robert Beltran, campus safety aid officer, stated this is much more common than bullying cases reported to them. Beltran said, “I think that repeat offenders should be dealt with more harshly then kids who have been in one fight or fight once a year. School policy usually refrains from suspending students, so I think policy should change for repeat offenders.”

Image: Josh Contreras, School resource officers and campus safety officers deal more with peer to peer conflicts on a daily basis than bullying cases.

Image: Josh Contreras, School resource officers and campus safety officers deal more with peer to peer conflicts on a daily basis than bullying cases.

Beltran believes that repeat offenders should be suspended because students who have been dealt with in this way in the past usually do not repeat the offense after being punished.

In the case of bullying, Martinez says that there needs to be a specific level of harassment that must be reached before police intervention or legal action is taken, should the need arise. Such evidence required includes recorded phone calls, text messages, saved voice mails.

Martinez says a common occurrence when bullying is reported is that students who reports that they are a victim of bullying often retaliate the harassment towards the instigator. It is essential in these conflicts that both sides of the story are told, says Martinez.

If however, the case is considered legitimate where the student is in fact a victim,  school resource officers are to ask whether or not the student wants to prosecute. Very rarely do students press charges against another student because usually the harassment ceases after Martinez warns the perpetrator that they can be prosecuted.

However, if it does reach that point where a student feels that they wish to report the case to the District Attorney, Officer Martinez says that is difficult for cases like these to ever go to court.

If there is enough evidence and they want to press charges, school officers are to write a report which is given to the Detective Bureau. Here, the case is reviewed and determines if there is enough to move forward with the case, which is then filed to the District Attorney’s office if it is believed to be a legitimate case.

“I can tell you that simple harassment, text messages, or annoying phone calls will probably not be filed. The DA will probably reject it. The only case where they might file for something like this is in the case where there is a bad separation between a husband and a wife where threats are involved,” said Martinez.

The reason why something like this would happen where bullying cases are rejected, is because they are much more complex situations and more difficult to prove, according to Martinez. Again, instances where students follow through with the prosecution process are rare.

“It’s one of the hardest cases to prosecute, but it does happen,” says Martinez.

If a person is found guilty in these cases, they would be charged with violations of Penal Codes 653 M or 422.

Penal Code 653 M states, “Every person who, with intent to annoy, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device with another and addresses to or about the other person any obscene language or addresses to the other person any threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person addressed or any member of his or her family, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

PC 422 is charged to any person who is guilty of making a threat and has the ability to follow through with harming someone else, or causing damage to property equaling $1,000 or greater. This is a misdemeanor.

Students can also be guilty of PC 647, which is the use of a camera to invade another person’s privacy, also a misdemeanor.

If a student is affiliated to any case of bullying, counseling resources are available to both the victim of bullying as well as the person who has been identified as the bully, according to Sylvana Cavazos, the guidance program coordinator at Azusa Unified School District.

View a photo essay from last year about a transgender student’s experience below.

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Former Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez convicted of murder

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Image: Family photo of victim Odin Lloyd.

On Wednesday, April 15, Aaron Hernandez, 25, was sentenced to life in prison without any chance of parole after being found guilty for the murder of Odin Lloyd in the first degree, in addition to the illegal possession of ammunition and a firearm. 

The trial began back in January of this year but the verdict took place over the last seven days, where the jurors spent about 35 hours contemplating their conclusion, according to CNN.

According to a source in law enforcement, Hernandez stated, “They got it wrong. I didn’t do it.”

The overwhelming evidence, however, would say otherwise such as the security footage taken from Hernandez’s home showed him carrying a gun that matched the description of the murder weapon, according to police. A series of text messages proved that Hernandez had invited the victim over to hang out on the night of his death, according to Business Insider.

Image: Steven Senne AP photographer, Aaron Hernandez convicted of first-degree murder

Image: Steven Senne AP photographer, Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez convicted of first-degree murder

Additionally, video surveillance shows a Nissan Altima rented in Hernandez’ name parked outside of the victim’s home at 2:30am, the day he was killed.

Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn stated that Hernandez’s fame never became a factor to pressure the jury to sway any which way. “The fact that he was a professional athlete meant nothing in the end. He is a citizen who was held accountable by the jury for his depraved conduct,” said Quinn.

Ironically, Hernandez has been taken to Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Cedar Junction, a prison that is less than four miles away from Gillette Stadium, the Patriots home playing field.

Suspect surrenders to police, still receives beating

On Thursday, April 9, 2015, police chased Francis Jared Pusok, 30 after the suspect fled the scene of a identity theft investigation in a vehicle, according to a NBC Los Angeles report.

When Pusok fled, police pursued the suspect throughout Apple Valley and Hisperia. The suspect ditched his car in Hisperia at Bowen Ranch, where he decided he wanted to become a cowboy.

The 30-year-old white suspect stole a horse from the ranch, according to deputies, and continued to flee in hot pursuit, or in this case: horse pursuit.

Eventually the police caught up when the suspect fell off the horse, and was tased by police. Once the officers approached the suspect, they began to beat him.

Image: Facebook, Francis Jared Pusok was beaten after surrendering to police.

Image: Facebook, Francis Jared Pusok was beaten after surrendering to police.

The video shows that Pusok, was kicked 17 times, punched 37 times, and hit with batons four times. 13 of these blows were inflicted upon the suspect’s head.

Once the video was made public, the sherrif of San Bernadino County, John McMahon ordered an internal investigation about the happenings of this event, saying that he was “disturbed” by what he saw in the video.

According to the officers, they stated the taser was ineffective on Pusok due to his loose clothing, which, I guess calls for a group of  11 deputies to beat a man who has already surrendered?

Pusok is currently in an unknown hospital, according to authorities, with unknown injuries. During this duration, both his mother and girlfriend have been unable to see or even know the location where Pusok is hospitalized.

Read another report here.

Watch the video below.

President Obama defends Affordable Healthcare Act, criticizes republican attempts to repeal

The president held a conference at the White House on Wednesday, March 23, 2015 for the Affordable Healthcare Act’s (ACA) fifth anniversary to detail the achievements of the law, and to criticize those who would otherwise repeal it.

During his speech, he discussed several features that are available to those enrolled. Features include that individuals under the ACA can no longer be charged more or denied coverage for any preexisting conditions, women can no longer be charged more for health insurance because of their gender, people under the age of 26 can remain on their parents’ coverage, preventive care now comes with no additional out-of-pocket expenses, and that portable health insurance options that are available.

Image: Jacklyn Martin/Associated Press, President Obama discusses achievements of the ACA over the past five years.

Image: Jacklyn Martin/Associated Press, President Obama discusses achievements of the ACA over the past five years.

President Obama also discussed the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program (HRRP), a portion of the law that penalizes hospitals if patients are readmitted after being discharged within a 30-day period.

The president said that the HRRP is a major reason why there have been 50,000 fewer preventable patient deaths as a result of hospitals being pushed to improve the quality of patient visits rather than the quantity of them.

He continued to discuss the accomplishments of Obamacare within the 29 (including Washington D.C.) states that it affects.

President Obama said, “After five years of the ACA, more than 16 million uninsured Americans have gained healthcare coverage.”

He stated how the ACA has been able to succeed despite the opposition it faces from republicans looking to repeal the law, and criticized them for doing so.

“It’s not the job killer that critics have warned about for five years. When the law was passed, businesses began the longest streak of private section growth on record. 60 straight months, five years, 12 million new jobs. Nor is it the fiscal disaster critics warned about for five years. Healthcare prices are rising at the slowest rate in nearly 30 years.”He stated that this has helped cut the deficit by two-thirds since he took office.

Additionally he stated, “for folks who are basing their entire political agenda on repealing the law, they have to explain how kicking millions of families off their insurance is somehow going to make us more free, or why forcing families to pay thousands of dollars more will make us more secure, or why we should go back to the days when women payed more for coverage than men.”

View the entire speech below.

President Obama White House Afforadable Health Care Act speech analysis

On Wednesday, March 25, 2015, President Obama held a conference to speak about the accomplishments that the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) has achieved over the past five years, since March 23 was the law’s five year anniversary.

The president mentioned that the American Cancer Society was partnering with the Affordable Care Act, taking a more patient-centered approach to improve the care for cancer patients. According to the American Cancer Society’s website, the ACA does in fact benefit cancer patients specifically in six different ways.

  1. Through the ACA, no one can be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition, including cancer. In the past, preexisting illnesses disqualified many people from receiving health insurance, even if they were sick and required otherwise extremely expensive treatments.
  2. Immediately after the law was passed, seniors received $250 rebates who had hit the Medicare drug program coverage gap.
  3. No health plan can deny coverage to children up to the age of 19 years old, even if the child has a pre-existing condition such as cancer.
  4. Insurance plans will no longer be able to place dollar limitations to their coverage, so people who are sick with cancer no longer have to worry about not being able to get the treatments they require.
  5. No one can be dropped from their health insurance if they develop a sickness.
  6. Coverage is guaranteed and out-of-pocket costs are to be eliminated under the law in order to continue providing “proven preventive services.”
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Image: KREM, President Obama discusses the achievements of the Affordable Healthcare Act over the past five years since he signed the law in 2010.

President Obama also remarked about Governor Markell (D-DE) whose goal was to have 80% of Delawarean residents be signed up for health insurance under the ACA. According to healthinsurance.org, 52% of all Delaware’s estimated 48,000 individuals have enrolled as of February 2015.

Obama also mentioned to the public that the Affordable Healthcare Act has “helped reduce hospital readmission rates dramatically.” The ACA has adopted the Readmission Reduction Program (HRRP), serves as a penalty program which requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to penalize hospitals with high readmission rates.

For Medicare patients, a readmission is classified as any patient that is admitted to a hospital after already being discharged within a 30 day period.

When the program first went into effect in October 2012, by August 2013, 2,225 hospitals had their CMS payments reduced because of their unnecessarily high readmission rates. The whole purpose of the program, according to CMS, is to provide better quality of care rather than quantity of care–reiterating the words of the President Obama.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “83 percent of Medicare patient admissions are projected to be in hospitals receiving either no readmission penalty or penalties of less than 1 percent.” Kaiser also found that readmission rates decreased by 2% for patients suffering from heart failure, heart attack, and pneumonia.

The Kaiser Family Foundation states, “CMS has estimated reductions in overall hospital readmissions (not specific to any initial diagnoses) totaling 150,000 fewer Medicare patient readmissions during the period between January 2012 and December 2013.” Concerning the decline, they found that the drops began to happen after Congress enacted the HRRP.

President Obama stated several perks of the Affordable Care Act, saying that it is “the end of discrimination against the sick of America.” The ACA features include that patients now under Medicare/Medicaid can no longer be charged more or denied coverage for a preexisting condition. This includes illnesses such as diabetes or cancer.

Another feature included in the law, is that women can no longer be charged more simply for being female.

Additionally, he shared how the law states that preventive care such as routine checkups, immunizations, and contraceptions now come with no additional out-of-pocket costs. Furthermore, he talked about how persons under the age of 26 can remain on their parents’ coverage plan(s).

Under the ACA, the president said that the law allows for buyers to purchase healthcare that is portable, rather than tied to their employer, which in turn can benefit the person who is looking to change up their careers or start a business.

Obama stated that so far, only 28 states have adopted to expand Medicaid for their citizens, even though all were given the option. Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 29 states (including Washington D.C.) have in fact, chosen to expand their respective state’s Medicaid.

Image: Kaiser Family Foundation. The map shows which states have chosen to expand Medicaid, which are under discussion, and which are not choosing to do so at this time.

Obama claimed that after 5 years of the ACA, more than 16 million uninsured Americans have been able to gain healthcare coverage. However, according to the ObamaCare Facts online website, by the end of the 2014 open enrollment period, “more than 15 million” who did not have health insurance are now covered. The president, perhaps, was rounding up.

Since the ACA has been in effect, the total percentage of uninsured adult American citizens has gone down from 18% to 13.4%, according to ObamaCare Facts.

President Obama also stated that in just over one year, “the ranks of the uninsured” have dropped by a third, although he did not specify exactly what year that was of the five that the ACA has been in effect.

To defend the validity of the ACA, and criticize those who are trying to repeal it, the president shared that after the law was passed, businesses experienced the longest streak of private section growth on record for the last five years which added a total of 12 million jobs in the process. Fiscally, he shared that healthcare prices are rising at the slowest rate in almost 30 years, and as a result has cut the national deficit by two-thirds since he took office.

He even shared that the budget that the republican party proposed in Congress the previous week would “literally double the number of uninsured Americans.”  Health care analysts reported to the Huffington Post that “a fair interpretation” of the 2016 budget proposed by Rep. Tom Price could see the number of uninsured Americans be doubled.

Medline Industries, Inc. reported that the CMS projects that if the ACA is fully implemented, after 10 years, Medicare costs will have been reduced for a total of $8.2 billion.

As of today, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 313,395,400 American citizens have health insurance.

To view the president’s complete speech, click on the video below.