Authorities are investigating whether a child who remains in critical condition after a violent assault at a Moreno Valley middle school had been the target of bullying before the attack.
The assault took place Monday afternoon at Landmark Middle School and resulted in the arrest of two 13-year-old students.
Riverside County sheriff’s investigators said they are aware of allegations of bullying involving the victim and are working with the school to conduct a “thorough investigation,” Deputy Robyn Flores said Thursday in an email. She did not say whether school officials had been notified of any bullying before Monday’s attack.
Anahi Velasco, public information officer for the Moreno Valley Unified School District, was unable to say whether the school had had past complaints of bullying and referred questions to the Sheriff’s Department.
Following Monday’s incident, two students were arrested on suspicion of assault likely to produce great bodily injury and booked into Riverside Juvenile Hall, the Sheriff’s Department said. Their identities were not released because of their age.
A video showing the attack was posted to Facebook. It shows a boy sucker punching another boy, who is then struck by a third person standing out of frame. The child appears to hit his head on a concrete pillar as he falls to the ground. The assailant who threw the first punch strikes the boy again and then runs away.
The victim was rushed to a local hospital with serious injuries.
Landmark Middle School, which serves about 1,160 students in grades 6 through 8, has been the site of multiple violent altercations in the last year.
Sheriff’s deputies have responded to the campus for reports of battery six times since August 2018, Flores said. She said most calls have ended with the people suspected of being involved in the incidents leaving the area before authorities arrived.
On March 19, sheriff’s deputies fired pepper balls to break up a fight involving about 50 students. Multiple children were treated for exposure to the irritant, but no serious injuries were reported. A 14-year-old student was taken into custody in connection with the disturbance.
In the wake of the latest violence, Landmark hosted a meeting Wednesday night with parents, staffers and sheriff’s officials. The packed gathering at times became heated as parents demanded to know whether the victim had been bullied and what the school had done to protect him, according to video from KTLA-TV Channel 5. Some expressed concern for the safety of their own children.
Jorge Quintero, a parent, told the television station that his daughter has been bullied at the school and “they don’t do anything about it.”
“So we are very sad and very angry at the same time,” Quintero said.
“Last night, parents indicated that they want to be part of the solution, and understood that there is a shared responsibility between all of us — the schools, the district, law enforcement and parents,” Velasco said Thursday in an email.
The school plans to hold another meeting “to focus on problem-solving and building consensus on solutions,” Velasco said. The meeting will take “a study circles approach,” dividing attendees into small groups to encourage everyone to air their concerns, she said.
“We want to work with our families to provide a safe and supervised environment with a focus on learning, while still allowing all voices to be heard, which is why a future meeting is in the works.”