Parents of a Yucaipa, California, teen who committed suicide are speaking out against the dangers of bullying, as other parents demand answers from the middle school they say failed to prevent students from tormenting the victim. The girl's parents are also alleging that one of bullies harassed them after their daughter's death.
Alleged relentless bullying from some students at Mesa View Middle School and on social media led Rosalie Avila, 13, to commit suicide, her parents said. Rosalie was a bright student with dreams of becoming a lawyer and a writer, her parents said. She had a great sense of humor, and truly cared about other people, according to those who knew her.
But bullying from classmates was chipping away at Rosalie's self-esteem, her family said. Students reportedly made fun of her braces and told her she was ugly. Rosalie chronicled her feelings about the alleged verbal abuse in a journal, which her parents have turned over to police.
Rosalie hanged herself at her home Nov. 28 after writing notes to her parents that said she was sorry any pain her death caused them. One of the notes stated, "Sorry, Mom and Dad." Another read, "Sorry, Mom, that you're going to find me like this."
Her father, Freddie Avila, told various media outlets he had no idea his daughter was contemplating suicide.
“My daughter had the whole world,” he said. “Now, I just have to think about what she could have done or what she could have become. Now, it’s just a memory.
“I woke up and there was screaming," he said. "I had to find my daughter hanging in her room.”
NBC News reported Rosalie was declared brain-dead on Friday. The family kept her on life support until Monday evening to allow her organs to be donated.
What did the bullies say to the parents?
The same bullies reportedly attacked Rosalie's grieving parents on social media, making fun of the fact that they have to bury their daughter, the New York Post reported.
The parents received a photo on social media that had Rosalie's face photoshopped near a made bed, the New York Post reported. The caption near the bed stated, "Hey mom. Next time don't tuck me into this." Right below it is a picture of Rosalie's face photoshopped onto the body of a boy pointing at an open grave. The caption on that part of the picture reads, "Tuck me in THIS."
Why are other parents protesting?
Parents from the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District and Mesa View Middle School, where Rosalie was a student, are demanding answers for why the school did not do more to stop the bullying. Parents protested outside the middle school Monday, carrying signs that encouraged community support for Rosalie, according to KCAL-TV in Los Angeles. They also want the alleged bullies removed from the school.
“I will not let Rosie’s name die in vain because that child should have never had to go through what she went through,” said Robert Ellis, a parent of one of Rosalie's schoolmates.
Did Rosalie's parents know the depth of the bullying?
Avila told NBC News it was only after their daughter's death that he fully understood how much bullying Rosalie endured. The depth of the bullying hit home when friends showed a video at Rosalie's vigil. In the video, Rosalie is sitting by herself as classmates made fun of her. A student at the school reportedly posted the video online.
While grieving the loss of their daughter, Rosalie's parents are also questioning what they might have done to prevent it.
"Rose just kept this to herself," her father said. "On the inside, it was just tearing her to pieces that they were always making fun of her."
He also said the school failed to do enough to protect her and administrators need to take a tougher stand against bullies.
"My daughter's death has to mean something," he said.
Over the past two months, warning signs began to emerge. Rosalie became more withdrawn and she was placed in counseling after her parents found out she was cutting herself.
How did the school respond?
The Yucaipa-Calimesa school district responded in a written statement, saying it has crisis counselors on hand to help students and families who are heartbroken over the tragedy.
"No one can fathom the heartbreak and confusion that we are certain many of our students and families are feeling right now," the statement reads. "Crisis counselors have been deployed to our schools, and are available for any student who feels he or she needs to talk with someone as they struggle to cope with their feelings."
The school superintendent said the district is working closely with detectives investigating the case.
What are people doing to help the family?
A GoFundMe page for donations to cover final expenses for Rosalie had a goal of $15,000 — but has raised more than $45,000.
On the page, Rosalie's mom, Charlene Avila, described her daughter:
My daughter is a victim of bullying. She was a beautiful person inside and out. She was a great artist, very lovable & loving. Her smile would light up the whole room with her laughter. She’s very smart and always had good grades. She loved the beach & liked going out to the snow. Rosalie had a great personality and was very funny.
Rosalie wanted to become a lawyer to "help the world to be a better place," Rosalie's mom wrote. "The world lost a treasure."