Search Scores for 2012

Pilot 1 story, 1 fund request, 2 bulletins (mine), 2 letters (mine) 8/21/12- 1/25/12)
Triplicate 6 stories, 4 letters (10) 1/30/12-7/30/12

Pilot: 1 story, 1 fund request, 2 bulletins (mine), 2 letters (mine) 8/21/12- 1/25/12)

One Last Point: Can't see for all the haze (Written by Jef Hatch, Pilot 8/21/12)

When I was in high school I lived in fear of getting itch powder in my underwear if I didn’t make it back to the locker room before the bullies did.

When I was in high school I feared being the last person on my team on the floor during a game of dodgeball – especially when the bullies were on the other team.

When I was in high school I wasn’t afraid of opening my mouth to the bullies and getting them to single me out for more torment than my classmates.

When I was in high school the idiots who picked on other students were called bullies and everyone – except for their parents, probably – knew who they were and what they were doing.

The problem that administrators faced was catching the bully in the act of bullying. It wasn’t enough, most of the time, for a student to report the bullying because it happened so often that the administrators had to realize that there were false reports mixed in with the real ones to get the bully in trouble as retribution for previous antics.

Typically the bullies were on sports teams, and well liked by their teammates.

Granted, it’s a horrible stereotype to say that the bigger, stronger and more physically developed kids were better athletes – and bullies – because they were simply ahead of the class, but it was true when I was growing up.

Today, it’s not bullying – that’s reserved for any kid picking on any kid – it’s hazing. Hazing is just bullying taking place in a closed community.

The Humboldt State University men’s soccer team lost an entire season because of hazing, and that’s just the punishment handed down by the university president (see story on this page); we’ll have to wait and see what the NCAA does.

The New York Giants’ defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul, recently made national news for dumping his teammate, Prince Amukamara, head first into an ice bath.

I watched the YouTube video of the incident and Amukamara wasn’t fighting to get off JPP’s shoulder as he was being carried to his end destination – he seemed resigned to his fate, rather.

The look on his face shouted, “I’m pissed off,” but his statements afterward were anything but, and other accounts from the time immediately following the incident recounted him continuing to horse around with his team.

The team has claimed that it wasn’t hazing, the players have claimed it wasn’t hazing, Amukamara claims it wasn’t hazing. It looked like hazing to me.

They all make the claim that it wasn’t hazing, but then they go on to say that the players play jokes on each other all the time, the veterans force rookies to do things for them, and then they excuse it all by saying what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room, and no one outside of football will understand it.

I agree that there needs to be a sense of community that may not be understood by people outside the group, but even within that group bullying and hazing need to not take place. Excusing that behavior by saying no one understands it is a basket of stinking socks.

Hazing is bad. Bullying is bad. They are one and the same no matter how it is cloaked, and it needs to stop.


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Letters to the Editor (4/28/12)

What are we doing about bullying?


Last year, it was reported that 14.6 percent of the BHHS juniors seriously considered attempting suicide, 6.3 percent actually attempted suicide (twice the rate of juniors statewide), and 80 percent of those attempting suicide resulted in an injury, poisoning or overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse, compared to .9 percent statewide. In that same survey, 2 percent of all BHHS juniors missed from one to six days of school in the 30 days preceding the survey because they felt they would be unsafe at school or on their way to or from school.

Hopefully, all of these students are still with us in today’s senior class at BHHS. But, what is the school district doing to stop bullies in their tracks? How many children do we have to lose to the unnecessary act of suicide before we get serious. When are we, as a county, going to wake up that the defunding of Curry County’s health care system has reduced or eliminated most mental health services?

At the First Friday Salon on May 4, will be presenting two films at the Chetco Library on the issue of Bullying and Cyberbullying, one for adults and a separate one for students. Each starts promptly at 6 p.m. and each will be followed by an open discussion on the topic.

Any adult who is concerned for the safety of our children while in the care of our schools, please join us as well as any student who wants to learn how they might help end bullying in Brookings. Then, come to the May 16 school board meeting at 7 p.m. at K-School where we have been assured bullying will be on the agenda.

Let the school board know your thoughts on bullying within Azalea, K-School and BHHS. Let’s not have any of our students be too afraid to get an education in Brookings.

Join us, won’t you?

Gordon Clay


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Teachers’ Web requests fund projects (Written by Lorna Rodriguez 3/20/12, Pilot

Other projects

Bennett also has another project: “No Bullies Allowed,” which will teach students strategies to eliminate bullying.

“Bullying is becoming a big problem in schools,” Bennett wrote. “By creating a safe and bully-free school, students become free to learn.”

Her students will learn strategies to combat bullying by using incident cards, reading “Bullying in Schools” and by using “The Bully Free Zone in a Jar” to promote discussions about healthy ways to reduce bullying and by using cards to learn anti-bullying strategies.

“Your donation will help eliminate bullying in our schools. Students will learn how to recognize and stop bullying. They will become empowered to stand up for themselves and others. These materials and resources will make a lasting impression for many years,” Bennett wrote. Aug. 3 is the deadline for “No Bullies Allowed.”


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Letters to the Editor (1/25/12)

This is No-Name Calling Week


January 23 through 29 is No-Name Calling Week.

What we know is that children and youth who are bullied need clear messages of support from adults. Although we want children to be strong and assertive so that they can stand up to those who bully, adults must realize that many children aren’t ready to do this. Adults play critical roles in helping children who are bullied and creating a healthy, safe climate in the community and within our schools.

As adults, we may feel uncertain about how to handle bullying when we see or hear it happening. Or we may respond in ways that don’t make the best use of the opportunity to teach a young person the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. We could end up inadvertently promoting, rather than reducing bullying.

Go to for some tips to help respond more effectively on-the-spot and make the best use of the “teachable moment” with all students in our community and in our schools.

Here are some suggested lesson plans for elementary level:; middle level:; and high school lesson plans:

It’s time to launch an on-going dialogue about ways to eliminate all kinds of name-calling and bullying in Curry County.

Gordon Clay

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Triplicate: 6 stories, 4 letters (10) 1/30/12-7/30/12

Mother of bullied kid: ‘I can give him a voice’ (Written by Kelley Atherton, The Triplicate 7/30/12)

A physical attack on her son pushed Cherce Norris into action.

She started a Facebook group and is calling on parents and the community to share their stories and get involved with stopping bullying in Del Norte schools.

“If You Really Knew Me ... You Would Know” is a forum to talk about bullying and help people whose children are being bullied.

More than 1,200 people have joined the group. Some rallied a few months ago at U.S. Highway 101 and 5th Street. Norris wants to hold a community event later this summer to help kids realize that bullying is wrong.

She is one of three local mothers who offered to share the stories of their children’s experiences being bullied.

Two pulled their children out of Del Norte Unified School District schools and now home-school them because the bullying got to be too much for their children. All of them want to see changes in local schools to make them safer.

Changes are coming, according to the school district. A meeting is being planned for August to discuss bullying in Del Norte schools and what can be done about it.

At school, on the field

Thirteen-year-old Eric Norris has been bullied at school and on a youth football field, said his mother.

“He wasn’t treated like he should be,” Cherce Norris said.

Eric has a learning disability, she said, and was placed on an Individual Education Plan by the school district. He was called “retarded” and “slow” by his peers, Norris said.

It was recommend Eric be put on medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, the medication had significant side-effects, Norris said.

“His behavior issues were not because of him having ADHD,” Norris said. “His anger issues and having to go to counseling were due to the way he was being treated by everybody.”

At school and at youth football, other kids were insulting Eric using profanity, she said.

On the football field, “he tried to congratulate (teammates) for a play and give them a high five after one of the games. He patted the guy on the back and told him, ‘Good job,’ and he said, ‘Get your hands off of me ...’”

In one incident, his teammates physically attacked him, Norris said.

They were upset Eric was hitting after the whistle was blown and wanted to get back at him, she said.

“The whole entire team tackled my son and he was kicked several times,” Norris said. “He was not physically hurt, but cried his eyes out.”

Norris said she tried talking to the parents of the boys who called Eric offensive names, but nothing was done about it. In any case, the bullying moves from “one child to the next,” she said.

She told the coach about the attack and he said he told his players they would have to run the entire practice if they continued that kind of behavior, Norris said.

“I was never told, ‘This is how we’re going to solve it,’” she said.

At school, Norris witnessed a girl make sexual gestures toward her son. Another girl said “she hated him” and told him to “get out of my face” because of something another student had told her about Eric that happened years ago, Norris said.

She pulled Eric out of school to get him away from the bullying and is home-schooling him through Castle Rock Charter School.

To Norris, all of these isolated incidents added up to a realization that bullying was widespread. At first, she hadn’t believed her son was actually being bullied.

“We thought ‘God, a complete stranger,’”Norris said. “All of these years I’ve told my son, ‘Why is it you? Why is it you who can’t go anywhere and everyone always picks you out of a crowd.’ Really not believing him. And then to see it with my own eyes. Then I felt like a horrible mom because I was looking back at all of these years that he was trying to tell me and I was part of the bullying — because I wasn’t believing him.”

Once she realized the problem with her son and other kids, she knew she could do something about it.

“I can give him a voice and all of these little kids who don’t have one,” she said.

When Eric was physically attacked, that was the last straw.

“I had to hold my child for a couple of hours,” she said. “Literally, my chest, my heart everything hurt on me for him.”

The medications Eric was on made him have suicidal thoughts, Norris said.

“I said that night, I wouldn’t wait for my child to be found dead before I do something,” she said. “All of a sudden it popped into my head I’m going to start a (Facebook) page and I’m going to be heard and I’m not going to stop until I do.”

Norris wanted the page to be a place for everyone to come together, have a voice, and raise awareness about bullying “as a community.”

The name is based off of the MTV reality series “If You Really Knew Me” that focused on youth and high school cliques. The TV show went to different high schools where students took part in a “Challenge Day” by participate in workshops and activities to learn more about each other.

When people talk and share stories, “you realize you’re not the only one,” Norris said.

Body bruised, feelings hurt

Ten-year-old Kaylynn Joy started the fifth grade last school year. She was at an age that can bring the onset of puberty when children’s — especially girls’ — bodies start to change. Kaylynn’s body was changing, said her mother, Jennifer Martin, and she was being bullied for the way she looked.

“For at least two weeks, I couldn’t figure out what was going on with her,”?Martin said. “She was lashing out at me, her sister. She refused breakfast and dinner at home. I would find her sitting in the floor of the shower crying and she would not talk to me.”

“She would literally scream at us, “There’s nothing wrong. Don’t talk to me. Leave me alone,” and slam doors in my face and finally I was like, I can’t handle this, so I?had my mom talked to her.”

Martin’s mother sat Kaylynn down to find out what was wrong. It turned out kids at school were calling her “bitch” and “fat.”

Even her supposed friends called her names, Martin said.

At recess, several boys held Kaylynn by the shoulders while another came up from behind and hit her in the small of the back. Her mother found bruises along Kaylynn’s back.

“She’s 10,” Martin said, emotional at the thought of a child’s bruises and hurt feelings. “She doesn’t need that.”

The bullying made Kaylynn think that something was wrong with her, that she needed to lose weight, that she was an outcast, her mother said.

Martin spoke with the principal and was told the problem would be taken care of — but the bullying hasn’t stopped.

“It hasn’t been physical since,” Martin said. “But they are still throwing names at her.”

Kaylynn has learned to handle her feelings by writing in a journal and then tearing up the pages to let go of the emotions, her mother said. Kaylynn is also learning to play the guitar and writing songs. In school, she plays the trombone. Kaylynn is feeling better, her mother said.

“She has found it therapeutic,” Martin said about the writing exercise. “She’s so frustrated, that’s how she gets it out.”

‘Terrified to go to school’

Thirteen-year-old Tyree Coles has given up on all of the activities he loves to do, said his mother, Tina Gaston. The bullying got to him, she said, and he decided to stop participating to avoid other kids.

“He’s my special child,”?Gaston said. “He’s the nicest, the sweetest, little kid, but he’s just different.”

Tyree has been diagnosed as autistic. He had speech problems as a young child. He was born with a hip displacement and had knee problems so he walked differently, his mother said.

In elementary school, teachers told Gaston that Tyree wasn’t mature enough for his grade level and should be in a lower grade. He was placed on an IEP.

“For years and years, I had been told, he’s just not mentally that age and I should hold him back,” she said. “No, that’s not the problem.”

Tyree had difficulties, but he wasn’t immature, she said.

Kids have bullied Tyree for as long as he’s been in school, Gaston said.

“With my son, as the years progress, it gets worse,” she said. “The kids get worse.”

Tyree was involved in sports, Cub Scouts, church youth groups. He excelled at the trumpet in band.

“He used to do all kinds of things,” Gaston said. “Now he does nothing because most of the activities he did, it was the same group of kids.”

Tyree has been bullied for different things throughout the years: how he walked, stuttering, his race, glasses, “one thing after another,” his mother said.

The bullying got to be so bad Gaston didn’t want her son in school anymore. Tyree didn’t have any friends and was afraid to go to school because he knew he would be harassed, she said. Tyree was put on medication to help with his depression and went into therapy.

“Everybody disagreed with taking him out of school, (saying) it wouldn’t benefit him, he would lose the chance to associate with peers of his own age,” she said. “He’s terrified to go to school. What’s he getting here if he’s not associating with anyone?”

She felt not enough was being done to keep her son safe at school.

“Something needs to happen,”Gaston said. “It got to the point where I’ve had enough.”

The last straw was Tyree being physically attacked.

Gaston had talked to the principal, saying that there was a problem, but the bullying hadn’t let up.

“One morning, he woke up just crying, (saying) ‘I don’t want to go to school anymore,’” she said.

Gaston talked to the principal again and was told the problem would be addressed, but that same day the bullying got physical.

She got a call saying Tyree had been assaulted and the incident was caught on the school’s security camera. Gaston said she wanted to press charges against the student who hit him. She never saw the video and doesn’t know exactly what happened. A police officer contacted her and gave her an update, but she hasn’t heard anything since, for more than a year.

“The next morning, I pulled both sons out.”

Gaston has been home-schooling them ever since through Castle Rock. She said Tyree’s depression has lifted and he’s no longer on medication.

Healing a bullied child

When children around the country are killing themselves because of being bullied, something needs to be done, Martin said.

She showed her daughter an article about a girl who killed herself because she was bullied.

“This is what happens,” she told Kaylynn. “I don’t want this to happen to you. This is why you need to talk to me. She cried and let me hold her.

The common thread between these three children is not just that they’ve been bullied, but that at times they think it’s their fault, that something is wrong with them for other kids to bully them.

Bullying has always been around, the mothers said, but it seems to be starting younger and the kids are getting bolder. They’re using racial and homosexual slurs and even making up their own slurs, they said.

If bullies can’t stop their behavior they don’t need to be in school, Gaston said, adding schools should be a safe place for children to learn.

These mothers decided it was time to say something for their children and others being bullied.

“It’s our responsibility if our child’s voice is not being listened to,” Gaston said.

Martin agreed, “my 10-year-old is not speaking up for herself — that’s my job.”

Last fall, a group of about 20 adults and children rallied against bullying. Kaylynn was inspired to become active alongside her mother. She’s adamant about telling people it’s not okay to bullying others, Martin said.

At school, Gaston said there needs to be an across-the-board bullying policy that’s sent home to parents and students have to sign. The policy then needs to be enforced, she said.

These mothers also know the sting because they themselves have been bullied at times, they said.

“It’s the one thing everyone has dealt with personally,” Norris said. “I think we’re on the road to something.”


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A code of conduct (Written by Kelley Atherton, The Triplicate 7/28/12)

District adopts new rules, sets August forum

Bullying has always been a problem, but concerns seem to be rising nationwide.

Some parents have actually put wires on their children to catch bullies in the act.

A documentary released this year called “Bully” follows five victims and has been getting kudos at film festivals.

The Bully Project, a social action campaign for the film, calls for action. The first words that appear on its website,, are: “13 million kids will be bullied in the U.S. this year.”

Parents are speaking up, demanding change and using social networking sites to call others to action.

One of them is Del Norte resident Cherce Norris. After hearing her son complain of being bullied at school and in sports practice, she got on Facebook and created the group, “If you really knew me ... You would know.” It now has more than 1,200 members.

Last month, the Del Norte County Unified School?District Board approved a bullying policy.

A bullying forum is being planned for August, said School Superintendent Don Olson. “We’re trying to change the climate of school,” Olson said.

Students set the standards

Through a joint effort of adults and students, Crescent Elk Middle School developed a code of conduct last March. Students chose the main points they want to strive for: academic achievement, clean campus, respect others and create a bully-free school.

In the last few months of school, Crescent Elk had a “huge decrease in suspensions,” and Olson credits the new code of conduct. He believes this is because the students developed the code rather than being told what to do by adults.

“They have ownership of it,” he said. “If they get involved in the process, it’s not something done to them.”

When students break one of the rules they can be suspended (in school or out of school) and have to do a writing exercise to reflect on what they’ve done, Olson said.

The next step is to create a code of conduct for each school, he said.

Such codes of conduct are recommended in a system of promoting and supporting proper behavior designed by the U.S. Department of Education and national experts.

A widespread problem

Olson said he gets a number of phone calls from parents about their children being bullied. Often it starts online with cyberbullying — harassing, threatening or harmful communication sent via text, email, phone and the Internet — which tends to spill over into school, he said.

Bullying used to be thought of as one kid taking another’s lunch money, he said, but has evolved to any threatening or harmful behavior toward someone else.

Nationwide, 28 percent of children in grades 6-12 say they have been bullied, according to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics. Of those children, only about one-third of the incidents are reported to adults.

Kids who have been bullied are more likely to be depressed, have anxiety, lose interest in activities, have health problems and problems sleeping and eating, according to Bullied children’s academics and school participation may suffer.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, as many as half of children are bullied during their school years and 10 percent are bullied consistently. This can have a great impact on their well being:

“Children who are bullied experience real suffering that can interfere with their social and emotional development, as well as their school performance,” according to the AACAP. “Some victims of bullying have even attempted suicide rather than continue to endure such harassment and punishment.”

The district’s work to prevent bullying and develop a plan for dealing with incidents will be rolled into its overall effort to reform the school system, Olson said.

The district is looking into using Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports as its agent of change, and the California Endowment, through Building Healthy Communities, is interested in funding training and material to bring PBIS to Del Norte schools, Olson said.

Schools have found success with this system and promoting a code of conduct designed by students, he said. In schools that district staff and community members visited while studying different educational models, student codes of conduct were prominently displayed to constantly remind students of their responsibility, Olson said.

The focus is on how the school expects students to act, teaching social skills to promote good behavior and getting kids to think before they say or do something, he said.

The system calls for restorative justice: When there’s a conflict between individuals, they talk about what has happened, the harm it caused and how to restore the relationship while providing justice. They “settle up” their differences, Olson said. The district wants students to take responsibility for their actions, he said.

Guidance from state

The district’s new policy is modeled after one recommended by the California School Board Association. It’s in accordance with a new state law on bullying, AB 9 authored by Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), that went into effect July 1.

The law requires districts to have a bullying complaint procedure and method for disciplining bullies.

The district’s bullying policy states “no student or group of students shall, through physical, written, verbal, or other means, harass, sexually harass, threaten, intimidate, cyberbully, cause bodily injury to, or commit hate violence against any other student or school personnel.” This includes cyberbullying.

The district is developing a new protocol for how students can report bullying and how it’s dealt with by school staff, Olson said.

The policy can be viewed at, then click on the left side, “Board Agenda Online” then “Calendar” and select the June 21, 2012, district Board meeting and look under “consent agenda.”

Students are encouraged to notify school staff they or others are being bullied. The district “shall develop means for students to report threats or incidents confidentially and anonymously,” the policy states.

The district is working on a reporting procedure specifically for bullying, Olson said. There is already a uniform complaint process that outlines how a parent should make a complaint to the district.

Parents should first talk to a teacher, principal or the superintendent who will “will try to resolve the issue with you at this step within five working days and will investigate as appropriate or as required by policy,” the complaint form states.

The form and information on parents’ rights can be found at

The bullying policy states school staff is to intervene immediately when a student is being bullied, contact parents of the victim and perpetrators and involve school counselors, mental health counselors and/or law enforcement if necessary.

“Complaints of bullying shall be investigated and resolved,” the policy states.

Olson echoed this, saying, “We will investigate.”

If parents are not satisfied with how a bullying issue with their child is handled or feel it’s not being handled, Olson said they should keep reporting it.

When bullying is reported, school staff members will talk to the other student and determine what happened. If a student was bullying another, staff will counsel the student, Olson said. But, if the student is repeatedly bullying, he or she will be suspended or expelled, the superintendent said.

“We will not ignore it,” he said, but “we give students due process.” School staff has to get both sides of the story, he said.

“Both parents and school officials want to stop bullying,” Olson said, but they may “differ in means to make corrections.”

Crime and punishment

Students who are found to have bullied others on school grounds or off (this includes cyberbullying) will be disciplined, which may include suspension or expulsion.

Last school year, 28 students were suspended for bullying, compared to 25 the year before that, according to the district.

The district is bound to strict state guidelines for disciplining students.

“The big five” crimes that require immediate expulsion of students, Olson said, are possessing or selling a firearm on school grounds, brandishing a knife at another person, selling controlled substances, sexual assault or battery and possessing an explosive.

Then there are acts for which administrators may recommend a student for expulsion. These include physical injury, possessing dangerous objects, damage to property, obscenity or profanity, disruption, sexual harassment, hazing and bullying.

However, first, administrators have to try and stop the student from committing these offenses. But expulsion is necessary if “means of correction” have failed to stop the improper behavior or the student poses a continuing danger to others, according to state guidelines. The School Board approves expulsion.

When students are expelled they are educated in one of the County Office of Education programs, as are students who have broken the law or are on probation.

What’s behind bullying?

Bullies are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, vandalize property, drop out of school, engage in early sexual activity, become criminals and be abusive toward partners and/or children when they grow up, according to

Bullies often torment others because they have been abused, are depressed or upset about something that happened at home or school, according to the AACAP.

“Children and adolescents who bully thrive on controlling or dominating others,” according to the AACAP. “They have often been the victims of physical abuse or bullying themselves. Bullies may also be depressed, angry or upset about events at school or at home.”

Del Norte has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the state, according to the website, a program of the Lucille Packard Foundation for Children’s Health that collects data on the health and well being of children in California.

In 2011, the child abuse rate was 144.3 cases per 1,000 kids under 18 years old, according to There were 875 reports of child abuse and neglect in Del Norte, down slightly from recent years.?

Of those cases, 167 were substantiated. Del Norte’s rate of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect is 27.5 per 1,000 kids in 2011. In 2009, the child abuse rate hit a high of 50.1 per 1,000 kids. Despite the decrease, Del Norte still has one of the highest rates in the state — only Trinity County has a higher rate of 35.2 cases per 1,000 kids. The state rate of substantiated cases is 9.1 per 1,000.

Most cases involve children 6-10 years old, but there are still quite a few cases of abuse with children younger and older.

The district is focused on changing student behavior — therefore preventing bullying — because punishment is not always a deterrent, Olson said. Behind the idea of restorative justice is breaking the cycle in which a child gets into trouble at school and set onto a path away from success in life, Olson said.

“The best place for students is in school,” Olson said.


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Reporter's Notebook published July 7, 2012 (Written by Triplicate Staff 7/9/12)

... coming soon, a story on bullying in local schools. Signing off. Kelley Atherton


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Teen joins Lady Gaga for event

Local resident represents DN at Harvard University (Written by Kelley Atherton, The Triplicate 3/17/12)

Bogdan Davis’s first flight out of Crescent City was to meet Lady Gaga.

Davis, 18, was selected as the youth leader for Del Norte County and adjacent tribal lands to attend the launch of the pop star’s Born This Way Foundation, which aims to empower youths to be leaders in their communities, at Harvard University.

“It was my first adult adventure into the world,” Davis said.

As an openly gay teenager, Davis said he has been bullied and threatened — which forced him to drop out of school for a while — but he rose above it and focused on opportunities to better himself.

The California Endowment is one of several partners in Lady’s Gaga’s foundation and selected a youth leader from each of its Building Health Communities — Davis was Del Norte’s choice.

“It didn’t seem like it was real until a week before I mactually had to go,” Davis said.

Last year, the senior at Sunset High School participated in Building Healthy Communities’ summer internship program, Building Youth Power.

Working with Melissa Darnell a community youth organizer, Davis and a group of students at Sunset are trying to improve their campus and change negative preceptions about the high school.

But he’s really focused on graduating this spring.

Davis transferred to Sunset from Del Norte High School for his senior year because it allows him to work at his own pace and he takes care of his elderly grandfather.

He was “nerve-ridden” about coming to Sunset, but felt welcomed there immediately. Students at Sunset are seen by some as “the unwanted children,” Davis said, but the students want to change that image so that everyone feels welcome at the school.

“We are the ambassadors of our experience,” Davis said.

Davis came out as being gay his freshman year at Del Norte High School in 2009. He said he was the only openly gay student there at that time.

He had friends who were supportive, but the response from many students was “ew,” he said. He said he didn’t feel accepted for who he was and didn’t feel safe.

Walking down the halls, some students would yell out “gay” and throw things at him, he said.

At an assembly on teen dating violence (during a week students could wear purple to raise awareness about the cause), Davis overheard students talking about why people were wearing purple. The response from one student was that it was “Fag Awareness Day,” he said. Another chimed in that Davis should kill himself because he was gay, he said, adding this was all said knowing he was within ear shot.

When he reported what some students were saying, there wasn’t serious retribution, he said.

“I have every step of the way struggled with it,” he said.

Even before transferring to Sunset, however, things got better. When he returned to DNHS after missing a semester, the bullying lessened, he said. It was as if “everyone had matured” and didn’t care that he was gay, Davis said.

It was right around this time the singer Lady Gaga was gaining popularity. She is a strong advocate for gay rights (among other causes) and her song “Born This Way” has become an anthem for gay pride.

Gaga and her music helped Davis through this difficult time, he said.

The last week of February, Davis flew out of Crescent City to San Francisco and then to Los Angeles, where he met with the other youth leaders from all over the state.

They got a lesson in how to use social media to create change from Blue State Digital, a national company that specializes in online fundraising, advocacy and social media; and also iPod Touches so the youths could post their experiences to Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.

The delegates flew together to Boston for the launch of the Born This Way Foundation at Harvard on Feb. 29.

They toured the campus, attended a forum about bullying and creating caring communities. and went to the launch event.

“It was very, very inspiring,” Davis said.

Lady Gaga was joined by Oprah Winfrey, spiritual leader Deepak Chopra, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to kick off the Born This Way Foundation that Gaga’s mother will help steer.

The singer spoke to more than 1,100 students from several states, faculty and invited guests at Harvard, urging the young audience to “challenge meanness and cruelty.”

“I believe that if you have revolutionary potential, you must make the world a better place and use it,” she said.

She reminded them that there is no law to make people be kind to one another and added: “I wish there was because, you know, I’d be chained naked to a fence somewhere trying to pass it.”

Gaga’s representative said the singer has made a $1.2 million personal contribution to the foundation, named after her 2011 album and hit song.

Gaga, who has said she was the victim of bullying as a teenager, said the idea for the foundation grew out of the dialogue created after “Born This Way” was released. She said she received an onslaught of letters and emails from people who said such things as, “I want there to be more tolerance in the universe. I want there to be more acceptance.”

During the event, the singer gave few specifics about how the foundation will operate.

She said the foundation is working with a new media agency to create a social media environment that fosters the foundation’s goals.

She said the “Born Brave Bus” will follow her tour bus around the country and will “welcome anyone from any walk of life” to “talk about love, acceptance, kindness” and other goals of the foundation.

She urged students to go back to their communities and perform “simple acts of kindness” to help foster acceptance, tolerance and individuality.

The event was inspiring, but Davis also felt proud that what Gaga and her experts were talking about are things he’s already doing “in a sense.”

“It was a pat on the back,” he said. “I’m going in the right direction.”

Davis expected to learn some sort of plan for what he’s supposed to do with the information he received, but he knows he’s a spokesperson for the next year and is supposed to spread the empowerment message to other teens.

After graduating in June, he plans to attend College of the Redwoods-Del Norte and continue to be involved with Building Healthy Communities and youth organizing.

Davis said he realizes that he has more potential to make change happen than he thought and feels empowered now, “a bit more super human.”

“I really look forward to the future,” Davis said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Health Briefs (Written by Triplicate Staff 2/28/12)

Del Norte County’s Bogdan Davis is one of 18 youth leaders selected from communities across the state to take part in the official launch of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.

The pop singer’s new foundation is focused on empowering youth to be leaders and advocates in their communities.

Davis was selected to attend the Harvard University event in recognition of his leadership in The California Endowment’s 10-year $1 billion effort to improve community health in 14 underserved neighborhoods across the state, including Del Norte.

The Born This Way Foundation has partnered with the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The California Endowment and The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard to explore the best ways to reach youth and create a new culture of kindness, bravery, acceptance and empowerment.

See for more information.

Davis and other California youths will take part in training to learn how to advance social change through digital and social media advocacy, and will be posting multimedia content live throughout the day of the event. The youths will also join in a Harvard-sponsored youth summit titled “Prevent Bullying, Create Caring Communities” involving more than a hundred young people from Boston and other communities. The California youths also will tour the Harvard University campus.

The foundation’s launch day at Harvard will culminate in a keynote address by Lady Gaga, who will be joined by Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Deepak Chopra, U.S Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and other luminaries.


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Little impact from new law

(Written by Kelley Atherton, The Triplicate 1/9/12)

History lessons must include gays, disabled

A new state law has stirred controversy over what kids are being taught in school.

SB 48 requires that the contributions of gay, lesbian, transgender and disabled people be included in state and national history lessons.

Del Norte County Unified School District officials say the law won’t have a significant impact here because those contributions are already being taught.

“I don’t think it would have an impact on instruction at all,” said Steve Godla, the assistant superintendent of instruction and educational services. “It’s already being done — it’s part of history. You touch on the gay rights movement if you’re doing a unit on people standing up for their rights.”

But now that it’s a legal requirement, it’s something that social studies teachers can collaborate on, said Tony Fabricius, district director of grants and educational services. They can define what should be taught, in what classes and at which grade levels, Fabricius said.

He and Godla are former social studies teachers.

The law amends California Education Code Section 51204.5 to include gay, lesbian, transgender and disabled people in a long list of other groups of people whose historic contributions must be taught. Pacific Islanders were also added to the list.

It reads:

“Instruction in social sciences shall include the early history of California and a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.”

Opponents of the bill say that it’s not necessary to teach kids that historical figures were or are gay, lesbian or transgender. Some have even suggested that it could influence students’ own sexual orientation.

According to the California Department of Education (CDE), it’s up to individual school districts and teachers to decide how the required instructional content is delivered.

Godla and Fabricius said that U.S. history in 11th grade and civics in 12th grade are natural places to talk more about the contributions of gay, lesbian, transgender and disabled people.

“It’s really not going to be teaching sex orientation history or the history of people with disabilities,” Godla said. “It’s going to be teaching history with the contributions of someone who happened to be disabled or gay.”

Gay and disabled people are part of history, he said. Topics involving those groups are nearly impossible to avoid addressing in class. For example, discussion of the American military in the last 30 years is likely to include the hotly debated “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that was recently repealed.

Individual school districts also decide what instructional materials to adopt. This won’t happened until after July 1, 2015, when the state’s suspension on adopting new materials has been lifted, Godla said.

Instructional materials must “accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society,” the law reads.

Social studies teachers tend to tell the stories of historical figures because that engages students, Fabricius said, making the curriculum more relevant.

“If something is uncomfortable or controversial in a person’s life or in a movement, do we ignore that? No, we explore it, we debate it — that’s where learning happens, that’s where those teachable moments happen.”

It’s not about highlighting the sexual orientation or disability of a historic figure, but it can add context to a story if being gay or lesbian or disabled influenced what a person did, Fabricius said.

Godla agreed that it could make instruction more engaging for students.

“One of the positive points of SB 48 is that for too long students were not engaged by history because we were not telling their story,” Godla said.

The law also amended a section that stipulated teachers cannot deliver instruction that discriminates against people based on their gender, race or ethnicity, nationality or religion, adding sexual orientation.

The law actually protects teachers who want to discuss controversial issues in the classroom, Fabricius said.

“It adds a layer of protection so teachers are not afraid to tackle these topics,” he said, as long as it’s done “in a directed, structured manner and not in an inflammatory way.”

Teaching about historical figures’ personal attributes makes them more interesting to students, Godla said. Showing a picture of FDR in his wheelchair can send “a good message,” he said.

Talking to kids about a historical figure’s gender, race, sexual orientation or disability might also discourage bullying, he said.

To read the SB 48, authored by Sen. Mark Leno, in its entirety, go to and search the bill’s name under “Bill Information.” The CDE also answers questions about the bill at



Reach Kelley Atherton at