Student Pleads With Senator to Create Anti-Bullying Legislation

By Lolita Lopez and Irene Moore
|  Thursday, Dec 12, 2013  |  Updated 7:20 PM PDT
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A teenager at a Van Nuys high school says he is being bullied for being gay. His mother is accusing the Los Angeles Unified School District of not doing enough to stop cases of bullying. Lolita Lopez reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Dec. 11, 2013.

Lolita Lopez

A teenager at a Van Nuys high school says he is being bullied for being gay. His mother is accusing the Los Angeles Unified School District of not doing enough to stop cases of bullying. Lolita Lopez reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Dec. 11, 2013.

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A high school sophomore has reached out to California Sen. Barbara Boxer asking her to create anti-bullying legislation after he was taunted at school.

James Anthony Scott, who goes by Shear Avory, said he’d been harassed more than a dozen times at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Van Nuys. Each incident, he said, came without recourse for the perpetrators.

The last straw came on Dec. 4, when he found a note on his locker that included a derogatory term for a gay man and read, “Get out or die.”

“I was scared,” he said.

That was the second note left for the 15-year-old. He called his mother immediately and said he alerted campus police.

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“It is evident and crucial that innocent and vulnerable students who are taunted, belittled, and bullied need to be protected under the law,” he wrote in his letter to Boxer.

Although her son wasn’t physically attacked , Amber Baker was concerned for Avory’s safety.

“Words hurt to me a lot longer than being punched,” she said.

A spokesman for Boxer's office told NBC4 the senator supports anti-bullying legislation that is working its way through Congress.

"The Student Non-Discrimination Act actually has already made it out of the HELP committee and is awaiting a vote on the floor of the Senate, while the Safe Schools Improvement Act has been referred to the HELP committee and is awaiting action there," Peter True said in an email to NBC4.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act recognizes that LGBT students may experience "pervasive discrimination," and aims to creating a bully-free school environment .

While the Safe Schools Improvement Act would require that schools "establish policies that prevent and prohibit conduct, including bullying and harassment," that affects a student's ability to get an education.

To date, none of the several teenagers involved in the incident have been punished, according to Avory. The school declined requests by NBC4 for an on-camera interview, but in a statement said the district is "committed to fostering a respectful culture" and have "given this matter the utmost attention."

"The district's policy is clear: we investigate any allegation of bullying and implement appropriate consequences and interventions accordingly. District policies require that schools follow positive progressive discipline practices," LAUSD said in a statement.

"L.A. Unified is a national advocate for safe and affirming schools for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning students. We will continue to work closely with the school, the student, and the family," the statement continued.

According to LAUSD policy, a principal may recommend expulsion if a student is found harassing, threatening or bullying a peer but only when other forms of correcting the issue fail and/or a danger to physical safety exists.

Avory's mother said her son's principal suggested the bullies attend a sensitivity course, and the recourse for not going would be suspension. Only one teenager attended, she added.

To date, none of the teenagers involved have been suspended, Baker said.

Baker said school administrators told her son that the students who allegedly bullied him “have a right to have fun and laugh and be loud in their high school years.”

The taunting came as a surprise to Avory, who said he was guaranteed a safe and healthy environment from the school’s principal, Debbie Smith.

After attending a Gala for Gays and Lesbians in 2012, the principal, who heard Avory speak at the event, personally invited him to attend the school for the 2013-14 school year, the student said.

He had been homeschooled the three years prior to attending Daniel Pearl because of his fear of being bullied that stemmed from a prior incident at a school within the Los Angeles Unified School District.

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