Last week, a young Arvin High School (AHS) student went to school with long hair and ended the school day with parts shaved off. The incident was recorded and shared to social media, where horrified on-lookers saw a student’s hair shaved in a botched pattern while others, including security, swarmed around the boy mocking and laughing.
Celeste Garcia, a current AHS student, recalls the moment her brother sent her the video. “I decided to go public with it because I am a victim of bullying and for the video to go viral makes me happy to know that people care about [him].”
Parents were outraged and scheduled a parent meeting at Bear Mountain Recreation Area in Lamont demanding action. Amongst the parents were the student’s family, including his mother Abe Santiago.
By the end of the week, the video went viral, inspiring a protest in front of AHS Friday morning.
District 5 Supervisor, Leticia Perez, told Kern Sol:
“I’m a mother, I send my kid to school every day to MLK, and I do that with the utmost hope and belief that they’re going to be treated with decency. That they’re not going to face cruelty while they’re trying to learn, trying to grow, and figure out how to behave. I stand with these families because they are morally outraged and I’m morally outraged with them. Cruelty is not okay, exclusion for any reason, to any person, at any time is absolutely un-American and not Kern County, and we must stand against it and we must teach these children the expectation of behavior, the expectation of morality, that’s why I’m here.”
Students left their classrooms to stand in solidarity with community members outside. Many students reported feeling unsafe and wanting staff and security to make big internal changes.
“Us as parents need to educate our kids to bring them up to be better human beings…” Melinda Torres, an AHS alumni stated. Torres urged for metal detectors and extra measures to keep kids safe.
An AHS freshman Jolet Guzman Mendez claimed, “We come to school everyday- how do we know we’re safe here. This is supposed to be a safe place…we’re getting treated like we’re nothing.”
October is National Bullying Prevention Month and the message of hope is still strong in the Kern community. Online communities have been sharing ways to help the boy and his family through this tough time. Motivational speaker and barber Victor Fontanez or VicBlends shared on his Instagram that he was able to give the student a new haircut. Another organizer from Shafter named Samantha Alcala set up a GoFundMe page for the affected family and raised over $31,000 dollars.
This story has already reached global levels thanks to online sharing, but Kern locals also want to show how much they care.
After receiving the video of the bullying last Thursday Gabriel Gonzalez, also known as Mr.Wagyu from Carniceria Gonzales’ Butcher Shop, knew he had to join the other businesses’ efforts. Sotelo’s Pressure Washing, Ritmo Kitchen and Lounge, Mariscos las Cazuelitas, Salty’s BBQ, and more have all been collaborating with Mr.Wagyu raising over one thousand dollars through an online raffle with tickets starting at $10.
All proceeds go directly to the student’s family and the winner receives a prize worth over $2,500. Raffle prize includes:
- Argentinian grill
- full carne asada tray
- A5 Japanese Wagyu tray
- $150 in gift cards to Sotelo’s Pressure Washing
- $100 dinner at Ritmo Kitchen and Lounge
- $100 credit at Salty’s BBQ
“Awareness [about bullying] needs to happen more in our low-income and inner cities just like in the wealthy community,” stated Mr.Wagyu.
AHS posted to their Official Twitter page:
“In regards to the recent events at AHS, please know the school has taken and will continue to take action. Due to the ages of those involved, disciplinary actions will and must remain confidential. We appreciate your strong emotions and anger towards this incident; the staff at AHS share your feelings. We do not condone these actions and please know we do educate against bullying. Please continue to have discussions with your children about bullying and how we can be better together.”