December 2, 2010 Issue

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Specialty Shippers Help Immigrant Families Send Gifts Back Home

December 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Large boxes ready to be shipped to Guatemala or El Salvador lined the sidewalk in front of Rivera Express in Highland Park on Monday. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

While some Angelenos have just begun their holiday shopping—and still others will wait and scramble to buy gifts at the last minute—many local immigrant families have already purchased, wrapped and sent-off their greatly anticipated annual Christmas bundles to relatives back home in their native countries.

On Monday morning, a tow-truck carrying a single large box strapped to its flatbed pulled-up to Rivera Express located on the corner of York Boulevard and Avenue 46 in Highland Park, as movers busily load similar sized boxes into a shipping container parked on the sidewalk.

Sandra Rivera, owner of Rivera Express, spent the morning making final preparations for the shipment that was leaving that day. This was the last shipment guaranteed to arrive before Christmas day, she told EGP, responding to questions about the large number of boxes lining the street.

“Every year in October we send our customers a letter wishing them a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year and remind them to ship their packages in November so their loved ones will receive them on time,” Rivera said. She said the letter also includes shipping dates, box sizes and shipping prices.

Rivera Express specializes in sending packages to Guatemala and El Salvador. Most of the boxes contain clothing, shoes, toys and non-perishable food items; “a lot of canned food,” she said.

Two more shipments will go out before the holidays, on Dec. 6 and Dec. 13, but she says she cannot guarantee they will arrive on time. “We don’t lie to our customers (by) telling them they will arrive on time, that late there is nothing we can do,” she said, noting the time-crush comes down to how quick the ports perform.

Rivera Express is a family run business. Her two adult children and husband share duties, which at this time of year amount to carrying out the heavy responsibility of ensuring holiday gifts arrive to loved ones abroad.

Rivera’s daughter receives packages and shipping information, her son picks up packages around town, and her husband travels with the shipments  and is in charge of making sure they arrive at their destinations.

The timeliness of the last holiday shipment can be a nail bitter for senders who want their family members to have their gifts on time, but the Rivera children—all now adults—have had their own moments of stressful holidays, like spending the final hours of Christmas Eve at the airport waiting for their father to return to Los Angeles, Rivera told EGP. For the last fifteen years the family has spent part of Christmas Day on local freeways trying to get back home, she added.

Rivera Express has been open in Highland Park for 15 years. The family used to also operate a flower shop next door, but in 2008, after 18 years in business, they were forced to close the shop when the economy went south.

“This year isn’t any better than last year,” Rivera told EGP. “In the last two years many of our customer have either gone back to their countries or have lost their jobs.”

Rivera estimates that about 30 percent of their clients are undocumented and have lost their jobs. While they still desire to send packages full of goodies and necessities back home, they can’t afford to this year.

Sandra’s 28-year-old son Erick says business is definitely down and while they still have many customers who are sending packages back home for Christmas, they now send one box instead of several.

Housing Commissioner Got ‘Perks,’ Claim Pico Gardens Tenants

December 2, 2010 by · 13 Comments 

A group of public housing residents in Boyle Heights who say they live in fear of being retaliated against by housing officials, sent an anonymous letter late last month to the local housing authority, councilman and Los Angeles’ mayor, alleging that a housing commissioner has unfairly received special perks and privileges.

The letter, signed simply from “The Residents of Pico Gardens,” alleges the commissioner received expensive housing unit upgrades, caused the resignation of several members of a committee elected to represent tenants of Pico Gardens, a low-income public housing development overseen by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA).

HACLA officials told EGP on Tuesday that they are preparing a response to the letter, which could be out as early as today.

Residents who spoke with EGP on the condition of anonymity, say they are terrified that they will be evicted for speaking out, and cite a Los Angeles Times article detailing how angry residents of a San Fernando Valley public housing complex were targeted for eviction after taking their protest to the home of HACLA president and CEO, Rudolf Montiel, as evidence that their fears are warranted.

Residents, who say they have few resources and desperately need to keep their low-cost rentals, told EGP that the fear of eviction keeps many people from speaking out when they are harmed or see something wrong.

The Pico Gardens residents told EGP they sent the letter because they are fed up. They say they have already complained several times to the housing authority and the city’s Ethics Commission to no avail.

Among the allegations in their letter are charges that the commissioner in question received an emergency transfer from Estrada Court to Pico Gardens on the grounds that “she feared for her life.” They question whether housing officials thoroughly investigated that claim that resulted in their decision to allow the relocation of three adults to a 5-bedroom house unit in Pico Gardens, displacing a single mother and her children in the process.

“Housing Authority knows, this unit calls for a large family with children. We’re sure Housing has a smaller unit somewhere, even if it’s in another development,” the letter states.

Rebecca, the resident who drafted the letter but asked that we not use her last name, told EGP that the locally elected Resident Advisory Committee (RAC) has not met since mid October. She blamed the commissioner’s oppressive and rude behavior for the decisions by three of five RAC members to resign, leaving the committee without a quorum, and residents without representation.

But the letters of resignation from the three RAC members in question obtained by EGP make no such accusation, but instead point to other RAC members as the cause of the discourse on the committee.

The resignation letters from Concepcion Garcia and Antonia Pineda, both dated Oct. 12, and from Cynthia Haro, dated Oct. 4, all state that they can no longer fulfill their obligations on the committee due to the hostile conditions created by other RAC members.

“Resignation [of RAC members] happen from time to time,” said Sanford Riggs, HACLA Director of Housing Services Riggs said, noting that it usually comes down to a conflict of personalities.

The letter also claims that unusually expensive upgrades were made to the commissioner’s apartment, air conditions were installed in violation of housing rules, and that housing staff were paid with public funds to do special favors for the commissioner, like installing flat screen TVs.

Riggs has confirmed that the commissioner did receive Silestone counter tops as part of a pilot program that is phasing in more durable materials at housing development units throughout the city.

However, Riggs and Eric Brown, Director Intergovernmental and Media Relations, say they have no knowledge of the air conditioners, or flat screen TVs being installed on the walls of her unit by housing workers.

Work orders for something like that would not be authorized, Brown said.

A letter of response to the residents will be written within 24 to 48 hours, Brown told EGP on Tuesday.
Brown said residents have “no reason to fear” living in HACLA developments.

EGP was not able to obtain a copy of the police report HACLA said prompted the transfer by press time.

As for the family allegedly displaced in the move, according to Riggs they had requested to be transferred to another development, and were “not forced out of that apartment by any means.” He says the commissioner is on the waiting list for a smaller, more appropriate sized unit.

A former HACLA employee told EGP that the circumstances of the move and the work done seem sketchy to her. She said policy was not followed during the process.

“…Maybe it’s just coincidental …it’s obvious that it’s not,” said Margarita Amador, a Boyle Heights resident and community activist. Amador says that she and the residents believe the commissioner orchestrated her move because she is aware that Estrada Courts is being considered for Section 8 conversion.

Riggs says emergency transfers are handled on a case-by-case basis and are at the full discretion of the Housing Authority: 100 families a year are moved under emergency transfers, he added.

The appearance of special perks for a public official are hard to ignore. “It’s all about perception. …someone in her position, being bounded by the Ethics Commission, you don’t put yourself in that position,” Amador said.

In a written statement to EGP, Councilman Jose Huizar said, “We are aware of the letter and have been in contact with those who reported the various concerns. Our office takes any allegations of improprieties seriously. We are asking the Housing Authority to investigate and reply in writing to questions in the letter that come under their jurisdiction,” he said in a written statement.

A response to the allegations by the housing commissioner was not received by press time.

Congress Lets Unemployment Benefits Expire

December 2, 2010 by · 10 Comments 

Washington—U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis urged Congress this week to extend unemployment benefits that expired Wednesday at midnight. She said their expiration would leave “more than 2 million Americans completely unprotected.”

In a press conference with Hispanic media, Solis stressed the importance of a vote on the matter “before Christmas,” and before Congress recesses through January and returns with a slate of new elected representatives.

“If the cut to unemployment benefits is extended until next year, it could ultimately affect 6 million people,” Solis said.

The funds, which expired last June and were renewed in July to continue through this week, provide an average of $310 a week to two million Americans, and are received by another five million people who have been out of work for six months or more.

According to the secretary of labor, the elimination of these benefits would be a blow to the country’s economic growth, because the benefits are “keeping many businesses open.”

Citing data from the Congressional Budget Office, Solis said every dollar spent on unemployment benefits generates up to $1.90 in economic growth.

However, the budget and the deficit are the main obstacles to the extension of the subsidies that would increase the federal debt and have generated opposition by Republicans.

Although she declined to comment on the opposition to finance the proposed subsidies through other federal budget cuts, the secretary said she was “very confident” that both parties would find a way to supply funding for the measure.

The expiration of the unemployment benefit extension, which expired at midnight on Wednesday, she added, would cause “serious consequences in areas with higher unemployment rates than other parts of the country,” mostly places with large Hispanic populations.

Solis backed her message to Congress with new data on unemployment in the U.S. in areas with larger Hispanic populations, such as Naples, Florida, where the unemployment rate among Hispanics is 20.6 percent, compared to 13.4 percent of the general population.

Other areas hit hard by high unemployment rates among Latinos are Las Vegas (Nevada) and surrounding cities, with 16.5 percent; San Francisco, Oakland and Fremont California, 16.4 percent; 16.2 percent in Indianapolis (Indiana) and 16.1 percent in Detroit.

The latest data published in October shows the U.S. unemployment rate remained at 9.6 percent for the third consecutive month, although 151,000 new jobs were created.

This story was translated by EGP.

Molina Announces Motion To Study Traffic in Union Pacific Area

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County Supervisor Gloria Molina announced Wednesday she will introduce a motion to do a six to nine month “comprehensive traffic calming study” of the Union Pacific community.

She plans to present the motion at the Dec. 14 County Board of Supervisor’s meeting. “The Union Pacific traffic study process will include several communitywide meetings,” said Molina.

State guidelines will be used in the Public Works’ study to determine minimum requirements for traffic signals, stop signs or other traffic calming measures to avoid losing out on state and federal road funds.

According to a statement from her office, Molina is requesting “non-traditional calming devices” such as bulb-outs, because they are “more flexible in their application and often more effective.”

Residents and community members in the Union Pacific neighborhood had appealed the County Department of Public Works and the Highway Safety Commission for additional traffic calming measures.

In July, the Highway Safety Commission directed staff to conduct a study of traffic safety in the Union Pacific area, the results of which was presented on Nov. 3. They responded to staff’s report by reinforcing existing traffic safety measures in the area.

The commission directed County Department of Public Works to paint speed limit markers onto the pavement next to the existing 25-miles-per-hour speed limit signs on Union Pacific Boulevard between Indiana Street and Mariana.

They also directed public works to forward speed surveys to the East Los Angeles County Highway Patrol to assist “appropriate enforcement,” and reminded them to send a “Suggested Route to School Map” to Eastman Elementary School staff and parents.

The commission did not addressed the original proposals to improve of traffic safety in the area that were made by Union Pacific residents. Those requests included speed bumps and stop signs.

“The community still feels very strongly about the traffic safety issue. It’s good that something’s been implemented, but it’s not enough to keep the community safe,” said Debbie Vongviwat, community organizer for East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.

At the time, Vongviwat said they planned to take the Union Pacific neighborhood’s traffic issues back to County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who had originally suggested residents go through the County Department of Public Works and the Highway Safety Commission.

The Union Pacific neighborhood was once home for Russian and German immigrants who have since been replaced by Latino immigrants. It has grown into a full-fledged residential neighborhood, complete with an elementary school, a church, a park, and a childcare center.

School Joins Traffic Safety Effort In Union Pacific Area

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The children who live in the Union Pacific neighborhood are fearless, says Blanca Espinoza, the healthy start coordinator at Eastman Elementary.

“You’ll see these kids running out” to buy snacks at the liquor store across the street, she says.

After school “the gates are locked so they can’t get out anymore,” but we still see students try to cross, all the while skillfully avoiding cars and trucks, she adds.

Not until “someone got run over” did the students become aware of the traffic problems, Espinoza said.

A “grandmother” was killed while walking to the church next to the school, and two girls who were hit by a car survived to talk about it with their classmates.

As for the big trucks and chaotic traffic before and after school, “the kids are just accustomed to it, they’re used to it,” she says.

The residents in the Union Pacific neighborhood, named after the rail yard located next to it, seem used to it as well.

Espinoza, a former resident and neighborhood watch captain, says traffic has always been a problem in the area.

“This has been a very neglected area of East L.A. for many years,” but in the past when the community became a “squeaky wheel,” they got County Supervisor Gloria Molina to put a park and a childcare center in the area.

Espinoza thinks they need to start organizing around the numerous traffic safety issues in there. “If more people get involved and take a leadership role, and be advocates for the community, I believe she will listen,” she says.

The concerns of school staff like Espinoza and residents have started to reach leaders like Molina, who announced Wednesday she is introducing a motion to conduct a “comprehensive traffic calming study at the Dec. 14 County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Meanwhile residents are still waiting for something to happen. Two years ago, a committee at the school tried to remedy traffic safety and parking issues. Trucks frequently drive by the school and park on their streets.

Those trucks were supposed to be rerouted, but Espinoza says nothing has changed and not a moment goes by without a truck driving by. The community can report trucks parking on their streets, but most of the time those trucks are gone by the time law enforcement comes out.

Teachers and staff at the 74-classroom elementary school jockey for parking spots with parents trying to drop off or pick up their children. The scene in the mornings and afternoons are all the more chaotic since enforcement of laws prohibiting parents from double-parking on the streets seem to have been dropped.

One of the problems they face is that they share a border with Commerce and East L.A., says Espinoza. They are located in an unincorporated part of the county, so they work with Molina on these kinds of issues, but moving ahead with solutions that might affect Commerce has proved difficult, she says.

The school now has a 15-person committee that includes Espinoza and some teachers. They had their first meeting last month. The committee joins other organized efforts in the community, including one in which Union Pacific area residents went to the county and the Highway Safety Commission to request speed bumps and stop signs.

The Eastman Elementary committee wants to move student drop-off zones closer to the school entrances and get more traffic and parking enforcement, says Ruben Martinez, a fifth grade teacher.

They also want to solve the double-parking problem, which clogs the streets and creates unsafe conditions around the school. It might require educating the parents, as well as law enforcement, he said.

A lack of parking available to teachers and staff forces them to park several blocks away.

The committee is also looking to get more crossing guard vests so that their volunteers can help parents while they drop off their children.

Espinoza said another idea proposed to make the area safer was to make streets around the school one-way.

One of the motions approved at a Highway Safety Commission last month directed the Department of Public Works to send Eastman Elementary a map of safe routes to school, but Espinoza said she has not received them yet. “I’ve heard of them,” she said.

Burglaries, Thefts Rise In East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Patrol Areas

December 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

While the early release of non-violent prisoners may have saved the state money, neighborhoods with high numbers of parolees, like Unincorporated East Los Angeles and surrounding areas, may now be paying the price for the controversial action.

Last month in Maywood, for example, a 12-year-old was caught three times committing property crimes. Veteran gang members put him up to it, Detective Sergeant Ronald W. Ridley of the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station has told EGP News.

Ridley says the increase in property crimes is directly related to the state’s early release of “so-called non-violent offenders” who are using minors to commit crimes because they know the juveniles will receive a lesser punishment if caught. Older, veteran criminals know the impressionable youngsters will commit the crimes for both financial gain and notoriety within the gang, Ridley said.

“All over, wherever there is a higher population of early released prisoners, we’ve noticed that crime has grown exponentially, whether they are directly involved or not—a lot of the time they are influencing younger people as the shot callers…”

In addition to Unincorporated East Los Angeles, officers assigned to the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station patrol the cities of Commerce, Maywood and Cudahy. So far this year, burglaries in the patrol area for the period ending Oct. 31 are up 37.5 percent compared to the same timeframe in 2009, and 74.9 percent higher than in 2005, according to preliminary data from the Sheriff’s Department Annual Part I Crime Summary a 119-page document that includes all the areas and cities patrolled by the agency.

Burglaries that took place in Unincorporated East Los Angeles increased 64.85 percent compared to same time during 2005, and 17.7 percent compared to a year ago.

In Commerce, burglaries are 21.08 percent higher than in 2005, and 23.24 percent higher than last year.
The high price of gold these days may also be contributing to the jump in burglaries and thefts, said Ridley. Residential burglaries, “chain grabs” and “smash and grab” type thefts have increased because gold can be sold easily and for a lot of money, the detective said.

Robbery is down 3.6 percent for the station’s entire jurisdiction compared to last year, but up 20-30 percent compared to 2005 levels, according to the report.

The addition of the cities of Maywood and Cudahy to the East Los Angeles jurisdiction and the annual crime summary for the area, has to some degree complicated the overall crime picture for the East Los Angeles area, explains the Sheriff’s department. The number of crimes reported in the two southeast cities are reflected in the stations’ total crime rates, but year-to-date comparisons will not be available until this summer, Ridley said.

The data show that aggravated assaults are up 10.7 percent compared to last year and up 42.3 percent compared to 2005 levels. The increase results from the addition of Maywood and Cudahy – which had 53 and 33 aggravated assaults respectively – to the stations’ statistics.

There were 598 aggravated assaults in Unincorporated East LA, and 70 in Commerce as of Oct. 31. When compared to 2009 data, the numbers amount to a drop of nearly 26 percent in Commerce and close to a 2 percent increase in Unincorporated East LA.

Grand Theft Auto also increased 5.21 percent in Unincorporated East LA and 29.56 percent in Commerce. However, both areas have seen about a 30 percent reduction in auto thefts since 2005.

In the Property Crime category, both larceny theft and arson are down, except in Commerce where there were five more larceny category thefts this year than last.

Forcible Rapes in the jurisdiction increased from 33 in both 2005 and 2009, to 39 as of Oct. 31 of this year. Thirty-one of the 39 rapes occurred in Unincorporated East LA, one less than in 2009, and four were in Commerce, which only had one rape in 2009: tying the total for 2005.

In all of the rape cases, an estranged husband or boyfriend was involved, according to Ridley. He said the bad economy and the high unemployment rate are increasing the stress levels in many households and might be what is fueling the rise in domestic violence cases the department is seeing.

As EGP reported last month, the East LA Sheriff’s Station has so far this year recorded 15 criminal homicides in its jurisdiction, five higher than in 2009, a 50 percent increase. Eleven of the homicides occurred in Unincorporated East LA: There were 8 during the same period in 2009.

8-Day Hanukkah Observance Gets Underway

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Observant Jews in the Southland began lighting candles at sundown yesterday to mark the first night of Hanukkah, the eight-day “Festival of Lights” commemorating the Maccabees’ victory over a larger Syrian army in 165 B.C., and Judah Macabee’s rededication of the temple in Jerusalem, which the occupiers had dedicated to the worship of Zeus.

Maccabee and his soldiers, who wanted to light the temple’s ceremonial lamp with ritually pure olive oil as part of their rededication, found only enough oil to burn for one day. However, in what was regarded as a miracle, the oil burned for eight days.

Hanukkah, which means dedication in Hebrew, is observed around the world by lighting candles in a Hanukkah menorah each day at sundown for eight days, with an additional candle added each day.

The reason for the lights is so passers-by should see them and be reminded of the holiday’s miracle.

Other Hanukkah traditions include eating foods fried in olive oil, such as potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts. Children receive Hanukkah “gelt” (the Yiddish word for money) from parents and grandparents.

The tradition originated with 17th century Polish Jews giving money to their children to give their teachers during Hanukkah, which led to parents also giving children money.

In the United States, the practice has evolved into a gift-giving holiday to prevent Jewish children from feeling left out of Christmas gift- giving.

Unlike the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, or Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, observant Jews are permitted to work and attend school during Hanukkah. It is the only Jewish holiday that commemorates a military victory.

“Hanukkah has blossomed into a major Jewish festival and a de rigueur feature on America’s civic, religious, educational and business calendars,” Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, wrote in his Hanukkah message to the region’s Jewish community.

“When we light candles for the last night of Hanukkah, let’s recall miracles in days long ago and let’s reflect on the modern-day miracles of the little holiday that could (and did) make it big in 21st century America.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa participated in the lighting of a menorah yesterday at a City Hall event organized by Chabad of California for the 25th consecutive year.

The lighting was dedicated to the plight of the newly unemployed and their families, with a hope and prayer for a brighter tomorrow, according to Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, who heads Chabad of California.

“Hanukkah is a chance for Jews worldwide to celebrate the miracles of the Macabee victory, the oil that lasted longer than expected and of one of history’s greatest triumphs over persecution, prejudice and oppression,” Villaraigosa said.

Molina Anuncia Moción para Más Medidas de Calmar Tráfico en Union Pacific

December 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

La Supervisora del Condado de Los Ángeles Gloria Molina el miércoles anunció que presentará una moción para realizar un “estudio integral de reducción de tráfico” durante las próximos seis a nueve meses en la comunidad de Union Pacific en el Este de Los Ángeles.

Ella planea hacer la moción en la reunión de la Mesa de Supervisores del Condado el 14 de diciembre. “El proceso de estudiar el tráfico de Union Pacific incluirá varias reuniones comunitarias,” dijo Molina.

En el estudio, el Departamento de Obras Públicas del Condado debe seguir las normas estatales para determinar los requisitos mínimos para nuevas señales de tráfico, señales de alto o otras medidas de calmar tráfico para evitar la pérdida de los fondos estatales y federales de carreteras.

Según un comunicado de su oficina, Molina está solicitando “aparatos de calmar tráfico no tradicionales” como “bulb-outs” (extensión de bordillo), porque son “más flexibles en su aplicación y a menudo son más eficaz.”

Antes de esto, los residentes y miembros de la comunidad de Union Pacific solicitaron más medidas para reducir el tráfico por parte del Departamento de Obras Públicas del Condado y de la Comisión de Seguridad de Autopistas.

El pasado julio, la Comisión de Seguridad de Autopistas (Highway Safety Commission en inglés) ordenó un estudio sobre la seguridad del tráfico en Union Pacific, que se presentó el 3 de noviembre. Ellos respondieron al informe al reesforzar las actuales medidas de seguridad de carreteras en la zona.

La comisión instruyó al Departamento de Obras Públicas del Condado a pintar los marcadores de límite de velocidad sobre el pavimento junto a los signos de límite de velocidad existente que demuestran el limite de 25-millas-por-hora en el Bulevar Union Pacific, entre las calles Indiana y Mariana.

También instruyeron al Departamento de Obras Públicas a entregar el informe al Departamento de Patrullas de Camino para asistir con “aplicación apropiada,” y además recordaron al Departamento de Obras Públicas a enviar de nuevo la guía “Rutas Seguras Hacía las Escuelas” a la plantilla de la primaria Eastman y los padres.

La comisión no ha enfrentado las propuestas originales de los residentes para mejorar la seguridad del tráfico en la zona. Esas solicitudes incluyeron topes para reducir la velocidad y más señales de alto.

 “Aún es prioridad el tema de seguridad de tráfico para la comunidad. Es bueno que algo se haya implementado, pero no es suficiente para mantener a la comunidad segura,” dijo Debbie Vongviwat, organizadora de East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.

A ese momento, Vongviwat dijo que planeaban llevar de regreso las preocupaciones que tiene con el tráfico a la Supervisora Gloria Molina, quien originalmente había sugerido que los residentes se dirijan al Departamento de Obras Públicas del Condado y la Comisión de Seguridad de Autopistas.

La zona Union Pacific antes fue el hogar de inmigrantes rusos y alemanes, ahora es una comunidad de inmigrantes latinos. La vecindad se ha convertido en un barrio residencial de pleno derecho, con una primaria, una iglesia, un parque y un centro de cuidado de niños.

Montebello Unified Stands Up To Bullying

December 2, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

The Montebello Unified School District launched a campaign against bullying by holding assemblies at its high schools this week. The events are part of an educational effort to teach not only staff and teachers, but also students about how to identify and prevent bullying from happening.

A committee has been set up at each of the district’s 28 campuses to deal with bullying. While the district’s bullying problem is lower than the national average, according to a district survey, they are taking a proactive approach, says Assistant Superintendent of Pupils Services Mike Cobarrubias.

The district will take a “zero tolerance” approach to bullying. “Whatever bullying that takes place, we’ll address it,” he says. Appropriate action will be taken depending on the level of bullying that happens.

Bullying has become more widespread because of cell phones and the Internet, resulting in what is called “cyber-bullying,” according to Cobarrubias. And recent events, in which students across the country have committed suicide due to bullying that targeted their perceived sexual orientation, have brought the issue to the fore.

Cobarrubias says bullying often happens when a student is being picked on or isolated because of perceived “differences.” Bullying could take the form of rumors and exclusion, as well as physical violence.

The school site committees on bullying are trained in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, developed in Norway by psychology professor Dr. Dan Olweus. The program is proven to have positive outcomes in schools, Cobarrubias said.

“Anti-Bullying Rules” posted on signs at each school remind students they should not bully others, that they should help students who are being bullied, include others who are being left out, and tell an adult if they know someone is being bullied.

The district’s anti-bullying efforts also include parent meetings and ongoing classroom lessons.

The assemblies held at Bell Gardens, Montebello, and Schurr high schools featured a screening of “Teen Truth Live: Bullying & School Violence,” a movie that highlighted the Columbine school shooting, which is thought to have happened when students who were bullied took revenge on their classmates.

Funding for this program comes from Safe Schools/Healthy Students, a four-year $8.8 million federal grant that the district received in 2008.

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