But that’s not what he finds when he looks outside.
We ate our ice cream and talked about the bullies at Lincoln High. “I wrote their names on this three-by-five card for you,” Adam handed it to me.
“There are never more than three?”
“Nope. It’s always the same three jerks out of the entire school of over two thousand kids.”
I looked at the card. He listed the bullies’ names and included what grade they were in and their position on the varsity football team.
“Tell me about them,” I asked.
“Okay,” Adam said, “I’ll talk about them in order. The first is Charles Arvin. He’s a junior and is a tackle on defense and a guard on offense for the varsity football team. He’s the ringleader. The other two mostly follow him when they’re together. When they’re by themselves, Jack Beazley is almost as bad as Arvin. Beazley is a senior, and he’s a running back and tight end on offense. Ryan Kilpatrick is a sophomore, and he plays tight end and is the second-string quarterback. If they were suspended, the football team would be hurting. I think that’s why Vice-Principal Cavalli doesn’t want to do anything about them. He thinks I’m a nothing freshman, so I’m beneath his concern.” He scowled.
“Adam, you are not a nothing freshman.”
“I know that. I’m better than any of those three assholes.”
I grinned. “You’re right. Just don’t call them assholes in our meeting with Vice-Principal Cavalli. Okay?”
“Yeah, I know. I’ll be very circumspect.” He grinned. “See, I can use big words, too. And I know what the ones I use mean and how to use them.”
“Don’t be a wiseass. And I won’t use that word in our meeting with Vice-Principal Cavalli, either,” I joked. “Did your mother take pictures of the bruising you got when those guys beat you up in front of the Taco Bell?”
“Yes. I gave a set to Vice-Principal Cavalli. I have more at home.”
“Vice-Principal Cavalli should have put the ones you gave him in your file. It’s the law. We’ll see if he has them, and if not, we’ll find out what he did with them.
“Tomorrow, I want you to put your cellphone in your pocket. If you’re bullied, you call me as soon as it’s safe to do so. By safe, I mean when the bullies have left. I’ll be there within ten minutes.”
Adam yawned a large, long yawn. “Where should I sleep?” he asked.
“You’ll use the second bedroom and the bathroom right across the hall from it. There’s a king-size bed, and you can use the dresser and the closet for your things. The bathroom has clean towels and a washcloth, and there are body wash and shampoo in the shower. I put the hairdryer in the bottom drawer under the sink.”
“Is it okay if I sleep in Eric’s T-shirt and boxer briefs?”
“Yes. I’ll wash them tomorrow and put them in the dresser in the guest bedroom. Don’t forget that after school tomorrow we’re going to Target, and I’ll get you some more clothes.”
“Okay. I’m going to get ready for bed, and then I’ll read before I go to sleep. Oh, yeah, is there an alarm clock so it will wake me up in time to get ready for school?”
“There’s a clock radio on the cabinet next to your bed. I can show you how to set it if you want.”
“Okay, I’ll let you know if I need you to help me figure it out. Goodnight, Rick.”
“Goodnight, Adam. Sleep well.”
Friday was cloudy, but it was warmer, and it wasn’t raining. We arrived at Lincoln High School at precisely seven twenty-five a.m. We walked to the entrance of the school’s administration building at seven-thirty, and we entered the office. The receptionist saw us and smiled.
“Hello, Adam. How are you today?”
“So far, so good, Mrs. Hernandez. I’m here with Mr. Decker from Child Protective Services. We would like to see Vice-Principal Cavalli.”
“I’ll let him know the two of you are here.”
She turned and spoke on the phone for about thirty seconds, a long time to simply announce our presence and request to see the vice-principal. She hung up, turned back to us with a scowl that quickly turned to a smile.
“He said he’ll be with you in a few minutes. Please have a seat while you wait.” She pointed to the chairs across from the counter. After we sat down, she leaned over the counter and whispered, ‘He’s in a bad mood.’
Adam looked at me and grinned. I leaned down and whispered, “I don’t think we’ll improve his mood this morning.”
After an almost fifteen-minute wait, Vice-Principal Cavalli came out of his office. He acted like he was surprised to see us.
“I don’t think I knew that you were here to see me,” he said, loudly so Mrs. Hernandez could hear him. He seemed to blame her.
“I phoned you about fifteen minutes ago and said that Mr. Decker from Child Protective Services was here with Adam Rios to see you,” Mrs. Hernandez said, firmly.
“Alright, alright!” Mr. Cavalli said, brusquely, then he turned to us. “Come on into my office, and let’s get whatever this is over with, and quickly. I’m busy. Besides, we wouldn’t want Adam to be late for his first class, would we.”
“Nice,” Adam whispered loud enough that Mr. Cavalli could have heard what he said, but he ignored it.
Mr. Cavalli stood between his chair and his desk. “Well, what’s your problem this time, Adam?”
I sat down, then so did Adam. “I am here,” I said, “to resolve the unresolved problems that Adam Rios is having with three bullies here at Lincoln High School. The three bullies are Charles Arvin, Jack Beazley, and Ryan Kilpatrick. Adam Rios’ mother phoned you numerous times and met with you in person on Tuesday of this week, and each time you assured her that the bullying would be stopped. Apparently, nothing was done. Someone in this office told the bullies,” I raised my right hand and pointed to Mr. Cavalli, “that Mrs. Rios had told you their names. As a result, the three bullies attacked Adam Rios when he was on his way home. So this is now a Child Protective Services case, and I am here to see that this bullying is resolved, and resolved today. If it recurs, we will issue a warrant for the arrest of Charles Arvin, Jack Beazley, and Ryan Kilpatrick. We will start an investigation to determine if the failure to resolve the bullying is a result of your inaction and if so, we will file a complaint against you and Lincoln High School.”
“Are you threatening me?” Mr. Cavalli bellowed.
“Yes, I am,” I replied.
My response surprised him because he sat down and stared at Adam and me.
“Who is your supervisor, Mr. Decker?” he finally asked.
“Here’s her card.” I handed it to Mr. Cavalli.
“This is in Sacramento!” he said. “I want your local supervisor.”
“I am the head of the Pleasant Hill office. I’m the regional CPS manager for Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano counties. My manager, Janet Garrison, is located at CPS headquarters in Sacramento. I have emailed her to advise her on the status of this case.
“Now, Mr. Cavalli, Adam informed me that that last bullying incident occurred a week ago today. That was followed by the visit by his mother and Adam to your office this past Tuesday. Why wasn’t something done following each of the three phone calls and the meeting Mrs. Rios had with you?”
Mr. Cavalli sneered. “There was no evidence that this so-called bullying ever occurred.”
“Adam, where did the bullying incidents take place?”
“In the building 200 hall, when I was at my locker, and then in the cafeteria at lunch.”
“Adam, are there surveillance cameras in that hallway and the cafeteria?”
“Yes. There is one at each end of the hall and two in between. There are a bunch of them in the cafeteria.”
Mr. Cavalli looked like he’d won the lottery. “The video tapes aren’t kept that long. Besides, some of our cameras in the halls aren’t working. We don’t have the budget to repair or replace them.”
“Who is responsible for maintaining the cameras?” I asked.
“I am,” he said.
“I don’t mean who the person who administers the people who maintain the cameras. I want to know who maintains the cameras and the video files.”
He rolled his eyes and started another excuse, but I interrupted him. “I’ll ask Mrs. Hernandez for this information since it appears that you don’t know who it is,” I said, and I got up.
He seemed to give up. “I think you’re talking about Phil Estivitis. I’ll call him.”
I sat down.
He dialed and asked for Phil Estivitis. “Phil, are you available to come to my office? Okay.”
“He’s on his way,” he told us. Adam and I sat there staring at Mr. Cavalli, and he stared at us. None of us said anything.
A few minutes later, someone knocked on Mr. Cavalli’s door.
“Come!” Mr. Cavalli called out.
A young man entered. “You wanted to see me?”
“Yeah, Phil. This student says he was bullied in the hall where — Adam, what’s your locker number?”
“J-143,” Adam replied.
“At his locker, J-143, in building 200,” Mr. Cavalli said. “Are any of the cameras in that hall working? And do you still have the tapes from last week?”
“Yes. There is one at each end of the hall pointing toward the center. There are two in the center pointing at each end of the hall. That way, we have good coverage in that hallway. It’s the longest hall in any of the buildings.”
“Are any of those cameras working?” Mr. Cavalli repeated, sounding exasperated.
“Yes, all of them are working.”
“Okay, how long do you keep the tapes from those cameras?”
“The output from the cameras isn’t recorded on tape. Here’s how it works. The live feeds are in color and are compressed and written to a local hard drive array daily and backed up each night. The hard drives can hold about ten terabytes of data. That means we retain about six months of recordings. When space is needed, the oldest week’s records are overwritten automatically.
“The recordings are encrypted, and we cannot manually erase any of them. On all school days, the cameras automatically turn on in continuous recording mode from the time the building opens at seven a.m. in the morning when the doors are unlocked. At six o’clock in the evening and all day on school holidays and weekends they automatically switch to motion-sensing recording. That means they only record if movement is detected, then all cameras in that area are turned on, as well as interior building lights, and they stay on for five minutes past the last detected motion in that area.
“That’s the school district’s policy. By the way, all of our cameras are working and always have been. We have a few spares we use to replace any cameras that stop working; those we send back to the vendor to be replaced after they’ve been repaired. The school district requires that.”
“Is there audio?” I asked Phil.
“No. That would have cost a lot more, and when the hallway’s crowded, you wouldn’t be able to make out what anyone specific is saying because of the noise level,” he replied.
“Okay, okay,” Mr. Cavalli said. He seemed to be in a hurry. “Now, can we see what’s on the tapes, or the hard drive or whatever it is, from here, on my computer?”
“Yes. You’ll have to log off, and then I’ll log on.”
Mr. Cavalli got up and pointed to his chair. “Okay, do it, and my visitors can come around and watch.” With that, Phil sat down at the desk, and Mr. Cavalli waved for Adam and me to stand in the back of his chair so we could see the display.
After a short delay, Phil turned and looked at Adam.
“What day and time were you bullied?”
“It was Friday, October twentieth, and happened three times that day. That was the worst day, and all three times were worse than what they’d normally do. It was at about seven forty-five in the morning.”
“Phil, can you flag the start and end times of each video segment?” I asked.
“Sure. I’ll do that, and I’ll send you and Mr. Cavalli copies of the segments that we view.”
“Of course, that assumes you’ll find anything, which I seriously doubt,” Mr. Cavalli said.
“Okay, the halls are pretty crowded at that time. Let’s see…” Phil thought for a few seconds, “your locker J-143 is about ten feet from the center camera that points east; that’s the camera that’s the closest. So let’s start a few minutes earlier than seven-forty-five. Adam, I’ll advance the video at double-speed, and you should be able to tell me when you see things starting.” I was impressed that he was addressing Adam directly instead of going through Mr. Cavalli.
“There!” Adam said. “There’s Arvin and Beazley. Now watch.”
Phil switched the display to standard playback speed. Adam was putting textbooks in his locker and pulling others out, and putting them in his backpack. The two football players walked up behind Adam, who hadn’t noticed them, and Charles Arvin smashed into Adam’s back with his shoulder, driving him against his open locker.
“I notice that those three are much bigger than you, Adam. Have you ever tried to fight back?” I asked.
“No. I don’t have a death wish. You can see that they must weigh at least a hundred and ninety pounds each. I weigh a hundred and fifteen pounds. And they are much taller than I am, and they are much older than I am.”
“So, you realized that you could be seriously injured if you tried fighting back?”
“Stop the video,” I said. “Adam, what were the bullies saying to you?” I asked.
“Same as always, they called me fag and faggot, butt-fucker, queer, stuff like that,” he replied.
“And what do you say to them?” I asked.
“Nothing. I never say anything to them.”
“Okay, continue the video playback,” I said to Phil.
“Okay, now watch Beazley,” Adam said. “He’s going to kick my leg, making me fall.” We watched as that happened.
Adam pointed to the video. “Now, see that tall guy walking up? That’s Kilpatrick. Watch what he does with that can he’s holding.” We watched as he slowly poured something on the books in Adam’s locker. “That was orange soda,” Adam said.
The three bullies stood and laughed at Adam. Kids passing by gave them a wide berth. Charles Arvin picked up Adam’s backpack and dumped the contents on the floor, then they walked away, laughing. After they left, some kids walked up and helped Adam up off the floor, put his books and other things back into his backpack, then helped him further by each taking some books with orange soda on them and wiping it off as much as they could with paper towels another boy brought them. Adam closed his locker, and then he and the three boys walked off.
“Adam, is that it?” Phil asked.
Phil stopped the video.
“Adam, who were those three boys who were helping you? What did you do?” I asked.
“Dylan, Sam, and Jackson helped me. They’re in my fourth period class. We went to the boys’ bathroom and wet paper towels and washed as much of the orange soda off the outside of my books as we could, then we dried them using the bathroom’s blow dryer. Dylan, Sam, and Jackson went to class, and I took a bunch of wet and dry paper towels and cleaned the inside of my locker. When I finished, I put the books that I didn’t need until after lunch in my locker. I went to Mrs. Hernandez and told her what happened, and she gave me a late slip. Then I went to what was left of my first class. That’s Geometry.”
“Adam, you said they attacked you three times on Friday. Tell me what happened the second time that day.”
“The next time was in the cafeteria during lunch. Charles Arvin tripped me on purpose, and I dropped my tray and fell on it. I had food all over my hair, face, and shirt. Then they stepped on me while I was on the floor as they walked away from the mess that they caused, laughing at me.”
“Adam, what time did this happen?” I asked.
“I’m not sure, maybe five minutes before one.”
“Phil, how many cameras are in the cafeteria?”
“Eight, all with wide-angle lenses, two on each side of the room, pointed toward the center of the room. There’s also a ninth camera pointing down at the cashier station.”
“Phil, can you scan the cafeteria camera that points to the cashier at around eleven fifty-five?” I asked.
This time it took more time, but then Adam shouted, “There I am, in the food line in the cafeteria, paying for my lunch. When I walked away from the cashier, I took my tray and went straight down the aisle between the tables.”
Phil switched to the camera he said gave the best view from the cashier line exit toward the center of the cafeteria.
“There I am, with my lunch on the tray,” Adam said. “You can see Charles Arvin sitting at the second table on the left next to Ryan Kilpatrick.”
We watched as Adam walked from the cashier station past the first table, then halfway past the second table. We saw Charles Arvin turn and stick out his leg and purposefully trip Adam, who dropped his tray of food on the floor and fell on it. Arvin and Kilpatrick stood up and walked away, purposefully stepping on Adam’s back as they did.
“What did you do then, Adam?” I asked.
“I left my tray and lunch on the floor and went to Vice-Principal Cavalli’s office and told Mrs. Hernandez what happened. Vice-Principal Cavalli came out and told me I was a mess, and I couldn’t go to class that way. I told him what happened and who did it. He said that wasn’t his problem and that I probably tripped and fell because I’m uncoordinated. I went to the gym, took a shower, and put on the T-shirt I use for PE. I put my dirty shirt and T-shirt into a paper bag Coach Green gave me, and I put them in my gym locker. My pants were okay because they had hardly any food on them. I went back and got a pass from Mrs. Hernandez, then went to my sixth-period class, Living Earth.”
“I got the full sequence,” Phil said.
“So, Adam,” I said, “Mr. Cavalli didn’t do anything to make sure you had something for lunch, or that you received a refund for the lunch that Charles Arvin ruined?”
“You gotta be kidding!” Adam growled as he scowled at Mr. Cavalli.
“You should have picked up your tray and carried it to the return station, then asked someone on the cafeteria staff to clean up your mess,” Mr. Cavalli said, sounding very irritated.
I glared at him, then asked Adam, “Where and what time did they attack you the third time on Friday?”
“It was just after sixth period was over. I went to my locker to leave my backpack before going to the gym for wrestling practice. It would be the same camera as in the morning, at about a quarter after three.”
Phil switched cameras, fast-forwarded the video, and stopped it just as Adam walked up to his locker. This time Jack Beazley walked up and grabbed Adam’s backpack and walked out of the building with it as Kilpatrick and Arvin knocked Adam to the floor.
“Where did he take your backpack?” I asked.
“He threw it into the dumpster outside the cafeteria. I knew that’s what they’d do since they’ve done it to me a few other times. I pulled it out of the dumpster and brought it to show vice-principal Cavalli what they did. He told me I should be able to take care of myself since I was a wrestler and to get my smelly backpack out of his office and throw it away. I couldn’t afford to throw it away, so I took it to the boys’ bathroom and cleaned it off the best I could, went back and put it in my locker, then got a late slip from Mrs. Hernandez and went to wrestling practice.”
“When your mother picked you up at school Friday evening, did you tell her what had happened those three times?” I asked.
“Wait just a minute!” Mr. Cavalli shouted, then he continued in a normal tone of voice. “This is something that should be discussed in private. After we’re finished with Phil Estivitis.”
I turned to Phil Estivitis. “You know that under State of California regulations, you cannot tell anyone what is discussed here?”
“Yes,” he replied. “I went through the privacy training class and signed an agreement. I’d never tell anyone about anything I would hear that’s private information about a student.”
“I want you to stick around. There may be other videos of Adam we’ll want you to bring up.”
I turned back to Adam. “You talked to your mother on Friday evening and told her what happened to you?”
“Yes. This was the worst bullying I’d gotten from them all in one day. Usually, they just bump me into the lockers or a wall. But for some reason, they really went after me last Friday. That was October twentieth.”
“What did your mother say?”
“She said she was going to take me to school Tuesday morning, and we’d find out from Vice Principal Cavalli why he hadn’t stopped the bullying.”
“So she had talked to him before about how these three guys were bullying you?”
“Yes, on the phone, a bunch of times. He always told her the same thing, that there was no proof that it wasn’t my friends joking around with me, that I was on the varsity wrestling team so I should be able to take care of myself, stuff like that.”
“Right now, I want to know, from Adam, when he and his mother met with you, Mr. Cavalli, and told you about these three incidents that happened Friday the week before last. Then I want you to tell me what you told Adam and his mother that you would do and what you did as a result.
“Adam, please continue,” I said.
“Mom came to school with me Tuesday morning. We were here at seven-thirty. Mrs. Hernandez told Vice-Principal Cavalli that we were here waiting to see him. Then we had to wait about a half-hour until he met with us. I told him what happened and who did it. My mom asked to see the videos because I’d told her there were cameras in that hall. Vice Principal Cavalli told us the cameras didn’t work.”
Mr. Cavalli started to say something, but I held my hand, palm out facing him so I could ask Adam a question.
“Were there any other bullying episodes by anyone other than those three students?”
“It’s always the same three guys. I didn’t know who they were until Dylan told me their names. He knows because he’s on the freshman football team, and they’re on the varsity team. Those three times were the worst, and they are why my mom finally came in to see Vice Principal Cavalli. Usually, every day they mess with me some way, shoving me into other kids, knocking me down, making me drop my books, yanking off my backpack, stuff like that. I always told Mrs. Hernandez. She said she gave the reports to Vice-Principal Cavalli each time, so it would be in my records. I also told my mom every time it happened. She called Vice-Principal Cavalli three times about it.”
“No effort was made to view videos from the surveillance system?”
“No. He told us the cameras didn’t work, and he didn’t know when they’d be fixed.”
“That’s not true,” Phil Estivitis said. “All of the cameras on the campus work, and they always work. Any that stop working are replaced with a spare then sent to the manufacturer to be repaired. I check them every morning when I come in.”
“At one of our staff meetings, I was told the cameras didn’t work, and they wouldn’t be replaced until next summer.” Mr. Cavalli said.
“And who, exactly, said that, Jim?” Phil Estivitis asked Mr. Cavalli, staring at him.
“I don’t remember. It should be in the meeting notes. I assumed it was true.”
Phil seemed upset. “Jim, when was the staff meeting when you were told about the cameras not working?”
“I don’t remember. You expect me to remember things like that?”
I needed to get the focus of the meeting back on Adam and the bullies. “Adam, did Vice-Principal Cavalli do anything about these bullies after you and your mother met with him, and you gave him the names of the three bullies?”
“No, nothing was done because those three guys kept bullying me, calling me fag and queer, and that my kind shouldn’t be at Lincoln High,” Adam replied.
“Excuse me,” Mr. Cavalli said. “I met with those three boys after I met with Adam and Mrs. Rios two weeks ago. I told them that bullying wasn’t acceptable, and they could receive detention or suspension if it continued. They claimed Adam was lying, and they had witnesses who could prove they weren’t there when Adam claimed.”
I glared at Mr. Cavalli. “These videos clearly show that what Adam reported was true, and it is sufficient evidence that these three bullies were lying, and yet you believed them instead of Adam. Instead of assuming that there were no videos from each time Adam was attacked, you should have contacted Phil, and you would have been able to view these videos yourself.”
Mr. Cavalli didn’t respond.
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