A Inland Empire school district has launched an internal investigation of the suicide of a 13-year-old girl who was the apparent victim of repeated bullying by classmates, officials confirmed Monday.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department has already been conducting an inquiry.
The announcement came as an attorney for the family of Rosalie Avila announced they would file a financial claim accusing the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District, which spans Riverside and San Bernardino counties, of contributing to the girl's death by failing to respond appropriately to the bullying.
On Nov. 28, Rosalie hanged herself in her bedroom. Family members found her with a note and a journal chronicling bullying she had endured. Rushed to a hospital, Rosalie never regained consciousness, said her mother, Charlene Avila. She was pronounced dead on Dec. 1.
"I don't even know how to explain what my life is going to be like without her," said her father, Freddie Avila. "She had so much to give to this world. She was so wonderful."
An attorney for the Yucaipa family said that the suicide happened after relentless taunting and name calling, which included Rosalie being told "she had ugly teeth, that she was ugly, a whore, a slut, and had sexually transmitted diseases," according to a release.
Classmates also allegedly circulated a video portraying "what an ugly girl looked like and what a pretty girl looked like and used a picture of Rosalie to portray the ugly girl."
The video was circulated throughout the school and online, her mother said.
"The parents of Rosalie complained on numerous occasions about the bullying and we believe little or nothing was done to legitimately investigate these claims, which led directly to Rosie being depressed to a point where she began cutting herself in October," attorney Brian Claypool said. "The school was aware and had actual notice of the cutting as well and did little if anything to intervene and snuff out the bullies."
School district officials declined to comment.
"We are cooperating fully with the Sheriff's office as it conducts its investigation," officials said in a statement released Monday. "We are also conducting our own internal investigation. Given that these efforts are ongoing, and due to our commitment to protecting the privacy of our students and their families, we cannot share any details at this time."
Under pressure since her death, the district organized a campus candlelight vigil, deployed grief counselors, posted materials about suicide prevention and counseling referrals and issued three official statements so far.
The school system "is committed to maintaining a positive, inclusive school culture that enables our students to grow academically and socially," officials said in the second release. "This issue requires all of us to work together, to watch for signs and intervene when we see problems. It is more essential than ever that we all come together, united in our commitment to the safety and well-being of our children."
Claypool joined the family on Monday in calling for legislation they said would make teen suicide less likely, including a requirement for written reports on any bullying allegations and mandatory notification of the parents of both the bully and bullied.
The family also announced three events: a community vigil Monday at 6 p.m. at Set Free Church in Yucaipa; a public viewing Tuesday from 5 to 9 p.m. at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, and a burial service Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., also at Rose Hills.