When Zachary Cataldo’s daycare provider picked him up after school on Monday at Piedmont Avenue Elementary in North Oakland, she found him lying on the ground; an older kid had apparently slammed the 7-year-old into a tree, and he was too dizzy to stand up, according to Zachary’s aunt, Janine Cataldo.
Zachary was admitted to the intensive care unit of Children’s Hospital-Oakland with a fractured skull and was released last night, Cataldo said.
It wasn’t the first time the boy said he was attacked at school. Cataldo said her nephew’s front teeth were knocked out last year, when he was in kindergarten, and that he has been a regular target for bullies.
“It’s not just bullying, it’s violent bullying,” Cataldo told me over the phone today.
Zachary’s father, Anthony Cataldo, said the latest attack happened right after school, and that no adults were around to stop it — even though he had shared his concerns about bullying with the school principal.
“That should be the safest place in the world for a child,” he said. “He’s not afraid to go back to school, but I’m afraid for him.”
The boy’s aunt was so appalled by the violence, and by the school system’s inability to prevent it, that she sent a letter this morning to district administrators and news reporters about the problem. That’s how I found out.
Denise Saddler, the district administrator who oversees Piedmont Avenue Elementary School, told me that schools generally assign staff to “yard duty” for about 10 minutes before and after school, and that she is investigating the incident.
“That’s something that we take very seriously,” Saddler said. Everytime such an incident occurs, she said, “We want to see if there’s anything we can do differently.”
Of course, Zachary is not the only child who has been beaten up at school, and Piedmont Avenue Elementary is not the only school facing this problem. I’m writing about this particular attack in the hopes of learning more, from you, about the bullying that you’ve seen or heard about, as well as effective efforts to curb it.
One such leadership/violence prevention model is a new Safe School Ambassadors program at Esperanza and Korematsu elementary schools (two small schools on the old Stonehurst campus). I observed part of an intensive training held last December for a group of fourth- and fifth-graders, and I plan to go back and see how it has worked.
What other programs, initiatives, procedures or crack-downs have proven effective — or ineffective — to make schools safer? How severe and widespread is school bullying, and what should schools do to better protect kids?
Feel free to post your stories and suggestions online, or to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (If I don’t get back to you right away, it’s because I’ll be at a conference tomorrow and Friday.)
image from xcrazyxizzyx’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons