But that’s not what he finds when he looks outside.
“Adam, when did these same three bullies beat you up next?” I asked.
“The day after my mom and I met with Vice-Principal Cavalli, and I gave him the names of the three bullies. It was Wednesday of last week; that was October twenty-fifty. Charles Arvin told me that because I gave the Vice-Principal their names, I was going to be sorry that I did.”
“Where were you attacked?”
“A block from school, on the sidewalk in front of Taco Bell.”
“Didn’t your mother pick you up at school?”
“She called me and said that she got home late, so instead of cooking, we were going to go to Buckhorn Grill for dinner. I said I could walk there from school. It’s only a few blocks.”
“And it was the same three bullies?”
“Yes. They kept hitting and kicking me and saying if I ever gave their names to anyone again, they’d do something to hurt me permanently. They stopped when a guy drove into the Taco Bell parking lot, jumped out of his car, and yelled at them and said something like, ‘What the hell are you doing? Get away from that kid now. He’s half your size.’ He was huge. They took one look at him and stopped hitting and kicking me and ran away. Then the guy drove me to Buckhorn Grill. He talked to my mom and told her that she should call the police. He said that his name is Byron DeKalb, and he’s a linebacker for the 49ers. He gave me three of his business cards with his name and phone number and email address. I kept one and gave one to my mom, and saved one for Vice-Principal Cavalli. Byron DeKalb said he’d be a witness if my mom wanted to press charges.”
“You had injuries from their attack?”
“Did you have to go to a doctor?”
“No. They hurt a lot, but my mom checked me and said nothing was broken. She’s a physical therapist, so she knows about injuries. She gave me two ibuprofen tablets then and one more when I went to bed, and that helped a lot.”
“And you reported the attack to Vice-Principal Cavalli?”
“Yes. My mom took pictures of my bruises, and I printed them and brought them in and gave them to Vice-Principal Cavalli on Thursday, the day after they beat me up. Mom couldn’t come to meet with him because she had to be at work. I gave him one of Bryan DeKalb’s business cards because he’d said he’d be a witness.”
“Mr. Cavalli, please have Adam’s student file brought in. I would like to see those pictures and the business card of the witness.”
“Those pictures have nothing to do with the school. This happened off-campus,” he said. “We have no liability for what happens off-campus. As a result, I didn’t add them to his folder.”
“You’re wrong, Mr. Cavalli,” I said. “Those photos, brought in by a student who has repeatedly been physically abused by the same three students who attend this high school, must be made part of his file along with Byron DeKalb’s business card and each complaint Adam and his mother has made to you about the bullying. That is a State of California law that makes your personal responsibility and that of Lincoln High School very clear. Student files must always be complete. The school might not have any liability for the off-campus assault. However, it is clear that it was those three bullies — who attend Lincoln High School — who attacked Adam repeatedly. He told you their names. Mrs. Rios may contact the police and have charges brought against the three bullies, and have them arrested. She may decide to file a claim against the school, and against you personally, for failure to protect Adam.”
I turned to Adam. “Has the bullying at school continued since the twenty-second of October?”
“Yes, mostly the bumping, calling me names, knocking my books out of my hands, threats to beat me up, things like that. That continued to happen since they attacked me in front of Taco Bell.”
“Mr. Cavalli, now it’s up to you to decide what you are going to do about these three bullies. I strongly recommend that you have them brought from their classes to your office right now. Then you should inform them that they are suspended immediately based on the videos showing the physical attacks they made against Adam Rios. Second, you might want to advise them that they may be arrested and charged for the attack on Adam Rios in front of the Taco Bell last week and that there is a witness who will testify against them. If they are convicted, they will be will not be able to play football or participate in any interscholastic sports and may be subject to expulsion.”
“I’ll suspend them,” Vice-Principal Cavalli said. “However, I’m not going to warn them about being arrested for something that happened off-campus. If and when that happens, it will happen. It seems to me that there’s not a lot of proof they did anything to Adam, just the word of some passer-by.”
“If Adam is bullied any more, I will take action since he’s a temporary ward of Child Protective Services while his mother is out of town.”
“He could come in complaining, and there’s no proof.”
Phil Estivitis, who’d been sitting there listening, spoke up. “Remember, we have security cameras throughout the buildings and on the campus exteriors.” He stared at Mr. Cavalli, then he emphasized once again, “and they are all — and have always been — working.”
Phil turned to me. “Taco Bell has the same kind of high-definition cameras installed at the restaurant where they attacked Adam. They might have the video showing when they attacked Adam there. You can check with the manager at that location.”
“Thank you, Phil. I will check with the Taco Bell manager.” I looked at Mr. Cavalli. “That will provide the proof, along with the statement of Byron DeKalb of the 49ers. That is enough for me to go to the district attorney and file so those three students are arrested and charged for attacking Adam.”
“If there’s nothing else, it’s time for me to get back to my department,” Phil Estivitis said. “If there’s some other video you need to check, call the school and ask for me. And just so you know, I don’t work for Lincoln High School. I work for the school district. I report to the Director of Security.”
“Thanks, Phil. You’ve been very helpful.”
He logged off the computer, then got up and left Vice-Principal Cavalli’s office.
“I expect that you will handle this immediately, Mr. Cavalli,” I said. “Now, Adam needs to get to class, and I need to see the manager at the Taco Bell. Then I’ll see Principal Gibbons. I expect that when I see Adam after school, he will tell me that there was no bullying today and that there will be no bullying from now on.”
“I guess you haven’t left much wiggle room, have you,” Vice-Principal Cavalli said. “I’ll have Mrs. Hernandez send requests to those three students, telling each of them to come to my office as soon as their first period classes are over.”
I held out my hand, and he seemed surprised. But he stood up, and we did shake hands.
“I’m glad that you’ve decided to take action on this, Mr. Cavalli. It’s about time,” I said. Adam and I left his office.
Adam picked up a late slip from Mrs. Hernandez. Once we were in the hall, I looked at him, and he grinned. “I’ll pick you up after school,” I said. “Where and at what time do you want me to be here to wait for you?” I asked.
“We’re out at three-ten, so three-thirty at the pick-up area at the front of the school would be good,” he replied.
“I’ll see you then, and we’ll go to Target and get you enough clothes to last through Monday.”
“I can use what clothes I have. We can wash them each night if they need it.”
“You’ll need the new clothes. It’s no problem to buy you some T’s and boxer-briefs, socks, and a few pairs of jeans. Those you have on are a bit ragged around the cuffs. By the way, you should bring your gym clothes home tonight so we can wash them. That way you’ll have them for your PE class on Monday.”
“Thanks, I forgot about that. I’ll bring my gym bag home with me. See you after school!”
I grinned. Adam included the word ‘home’ even though it was my home, not his. That was interesting. Most kids under a temporary protection order reserved the word ‘home’ for where they usually lived with a parent, a relative, or a guardian. A temporary fostering home was usually referred to as ‘where I’m staying.’
After I left Lincoln High, I walked across the street to the Taco Bell. I looked at the front and drive-through sides of the building and saw four video cameras.
I entered and asked to see the manager. He came out and introduced himself. “I’m Chris Greisen. I’m the manager of this Taco Bell. How can I help you?”
“I’m Rick Decker with Child Protective Services.” We exchanged business cards. “I have a case where three much larger boys attacked a boy from Lincoln High School. It happened on the sidewalk in front of your restaurant, and it was a week and a half ago. I know it didn’t happen on your property, but I was wondering if your surveillance cameras might cover that area and, if so, would you have the video from then?”
“We do have a camera that covers that area, and we’d still have the video online. Come on back to my office, and I’ll let you take a look.”
We went to his office and sat at his desk. “I’ll need the date and time,” he said. I gave him the date, Wednesday the eighth, and the approximate time, around three-thirty.
“Where was it you wanted to see?”
“The driveway on the east side.”
“Okay, we’ll start scanning on Tuesday of last week, around 3 p.m. I’ll set it to double-speed so it won’t take as long to find when this happened, then I’ll slow it down.”
After a few minutes, I saw a boy that might be Adam enter from the right. “Chris, that looks like Adam. Can you slow down the video here?”
“Sure. Let me back it up to when the boy walks into view.”
The video was clear, and it showed Adam walking down the sidewalk. As soon as he passed the driveway, the three bullies ran up. Charles Arvin crashed into his back, and Adam fell to the sidewalk. They pounded on him with their fists, and Arvin kicked Adam twice. A blue BMW 340i pulled into the driveway and stopped. A large man got out; I assumed he was Byron DeKalb. He ran up to where Adam was lying and appeared to be yelling. The three bullies took off running, and Byron knelt next to Adam. Charles Arvin stopped maybe fifteen feet down the sidewalk, turned, shouted something, and gave Byron the finger with both hands. Then he appeared to be laughing, and the three bullies ran off the screen to the left. We continued to watch Byron help Adam get up, and he was talking to him. Since there was no audio, I couldn’t tell what they were saying, but Adam nodded his head several times. Byron helped Adam into the passenger seat, then got back in his car and drove into the parking lot and out of view of the camera.
“Would you like me to email you this sequence?” Chris asked me. “I set tags at the beginning and end of the sequence, and I can copy it to our hard drive.”
“Sure. That would be excellent. Say, I have a flash drive with me. Could you download it right now?”
“That will make it even easier. By the way, I’ll save the sequence. Do you have the name of the boy who was attacked? I’ll use that in the file name.”
“His name is Adam Rios. How long do you save the sequence?”
“Until we run out of disk space. Maybe a year or two?” He shrugged his shoulders and grinned. “It’s recorded first-in-first-out, so the oldest stuff is deleted first. Where I’ll save the file isn’t on the same drive as the full surveillance videos, which are also first-in-first-out and get deleted more often, about every two months.”
I thanked Chris and left with the video sequence.
I returned to Lincoln High and went to Mr. Cavalli’s office.
“He’s talking to the three boys who’ve been bullying Adam Rios,” Mrs. Hernandez told me.
“Then I don’t want to interrupt him. Could you slip him a message that I have the video showing those boys attacking Adam in front of the Taco Bell on the first of November, and that I’m giving Phil Estivitis a copy in case he’d like to watch it. This way he’ll know that it actually did happen. By the way, I’m on my way to see Principal Gibbons.”
She wrote what I’d told her, gave it to me to verify that’s what I had said. “That’s it exactly. Thanks.”
“I will be more than delighted to deliver it to him right now,” she said. She got up and knocked on the Vice-Principal’s office door then entered. She returned and smiled at me.
I left to see the receptionist at Principal Susan Gibbons’ office.
“I’d like to see Ms. Susan Gibbons, please. I’m Robert Decker with Child Protective Services.”
I was shown right in. After mutual introductions, we exchanged business cards and sat down.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Decker?” she asked.
I detailed the bullying situations with Adam and that Vice-Principal Cavalli hadn’t resolved them. She called Phil Estivitis to her office and asked him to show her the same three videos that we’d viewed in Vice-Principal Cavalli’s office. She was not pleased by what she observed.
I gave the jump drive with the Taco Bell video, and Phil copied it to the school server then returned it to me. Ms. Gibbons viewed it and just shook her head.
“Be assured that I will make sure that we suspend these three boys effective today. Then, following their suspension, I’d like to have a follow-up meeting with you. I’d like to determine if something more is appropriate, and I’d appreciate your opinion.”
“Thank you, Ms. Gibbons.”
“You’re very welcome, Mr. Decker. I am glad that you brought this to my attention. I’ll also elevate this situation to Mr. Osborne, the Superintendent of Schools.”
We said our goodbyes. I was glad I’d met and talked to her. It gave me a new point of contact at Lincoln High School.
On my way out, Phil Estivitis handed me a CD with the videos of Adam’s bullying episodes.
“Thanks, Phil. You’ve been very helpful.”
“All students deserve having an administrative staff that’s concerned with their welfare. Principal Gibbons will take action. She’s new here and wants to make some important changes.” He grinned. “If you know what I mean.”
I felt good about what I’d been able to accomplish today for Adam. I also recalled what Susan Gibbons said about bringing Adam’s situation to the attention of the Superintendent of Schools. I knew Larry Osborne, and I was confident he and Principal Gibbons would stop the bullying at Lincoln High School.
My next step was to try to locate Adam’s mother. If she didn’t return to her home by five o’clock, I’d file for the emergency protective order making me Adam’s temporary guardian in her absence. I’d do both as soon as I got to the CPS Pleasant Hill office.
It was almost noon by the time I got to my desk and cleared my stack of pink “Please Return Call” slips, voicemail messages, email, and text messages. Now it was time to locate Adam’s mother, June Rios.
The only reference I had was for June Rios’ was her boyfriend, Ted Loaming, in Chico. I found several entries for the last name Loaming but only one in Chico, a Barbara Loaming. I set my office phone to record the conversation and dialed the number. After three rings, someone picked it up.
“Hello?” It was a woman’s voice.
“I’d like to speak to June Rios. Is she there?”
“Yes. I’m June Rios. Who’s this?”
“My name is Richard Decker with Child Protective Services in Pleasant Hill. I’m calling about Adam Rios, and this call is being recorded. Are you Adam Rios’ mother?”
“Yes. Has something happened to Adam? Is he alright?”
“Yes, he’s alright and is at school. However, it appears that he was abandoned. He was found in the rain on Thursday after school, soaking wet. As a result, he’s a temporary ward of Child Protective Services. I need to find out what your intentions are for Adam Rios.”
“What?!” she shouted into the phone. “Adam is my son. He was supposed to go to a friend’s house and stay there until I get home.”
“Adam says when he got home from school Thursday afternoon, he found a note from you in an envelope that you taped to the front door of your house in Walnut Creek. He said it was the first time that he knew that you were going out of town and that he should find a classmate whose parents would allow him to stay until you returned in several days. I read that note. It’s clear that, on his own, he was supposed to find a friend where he could stay. You should have prearranged for someone to take care of Adam while you were out of town.”
“I left that as a reminder. I told him all about my trip to Chico. That was on last Tuesday or Wednesday. He should have taken care of finding a friend where he could stay by then.”
“When you’re going to take a trip and be out of the area and leave him alone for several days, a fourteen-year-old cannot be told to find a friend where he can stay. Any child under the age of sixteen cannot be left alone overnight or longer. It’s against the law of the State of California. It’s your responsibility to have located a relative or the family of a friend of Adam’s who would be willing to take him and be responsible for him during the entire time you would be away.”
“How could I do that? I don’t know any of his friends!”
“You could have asked him for that information.”
“Look, you’re sticking your nose in my business, and I don’t appreciate it!”
“Adam Rios is now the business of California Child Protective Services. I will have our legal department remove him from your custody temporarily until we can have a meeting with you in person to clarify and reestablish your parental rights. Assuming that’s what you want.”
“Screw it. All he ever does is whine about kids picking on him. You keep him for all I care.” She ended the call.
I shook my head. June Rios wasn’t a nice person. People like her shouldn’t be parents.
I contacted the Butte County Child Protective Services office and spoke to Linda Taylor. I explained the situation with Adam Rios and his mother, June Rios. And that she was currently staying with her boyfriend in Chico. I sent the audio recording of my conversation with June Rios to the Butte County office. I gave them the only location information I had, which was the telephone number for Barbara Loaming. They looked up the street address and said they’d send a field agent to the Loaming address first thing in the morning.
I called Jared Wong, our staff attorney, who handles emergency placements and explained the situation.
“So, Rick, does this mean that you want to be this Adam Rios’ temporary foster parent?”
“That’s what I want.”
“How old is he?”
“I don’t see anything about him having a juvenile record.”
“He doesn’t have one. There’s nothing sealed by the juvenile court, either. So, my objective is to renew my fostering license and have Adam Rios temporarily assigned to me. He’s a nice kid. He might even like you, though I can’t be sure about that.”
We both laughed.
“Hey, I’m a pussy cat.”
“Speaking of pussy cats, I’ll send you the recording of the conversation I had this afternoon with his mother. And my report about the bullying that was happening to Adam. I talked to James Cavalli, the Vice-Principal at Lincoln High. He’s a real piece of work. I’ve had to deal with him in the past and encountered a general lack of cooperation, and unfortunately, never got any support from the principal. There’s a new principal now, Susan Gibbons. She is very supportive and is willing to work with us. Adam had continuing problems with three bullies at Lincoln High. Cavalli didn’t do anything about the problem. There are video cameras throughout the buildings, and after viewing the videos showing Adam being bullied, Susan Gibbons said the bullies will be suspended today. So be nice to Adam!”
Jared laughed. “Yeah, I know. I’m always the Grinch who steals kids from their families and places them with some nasty old witch. Though, in your case, it’d be a nasty old warlock, right?”
“Are you alleging that I’m mean and nasty?” I growled, then grinned.
“Sometimes, Rick, sometimes. So Adam is a nice kid?”
“He is. And he’s smart, too. He asked me to check his homework last night, and it was one hundred percent accurate. He’s a freshman who’s taking a digital arts class that’s for the tenth grade and higher. The project that he finished for that class was college-level quality.”
“Do you ever wish that you were back teaching at the college level instead of rescuing kids from dysfunctional and dangerous family situations?”
“Nope. Teaching web development and how to use programs like Photoshop was fun. I find what I do now is more rewarding. We just need more and better foster families, and a way to make adoption of kids who are in the foster system easier to accomplish.”
“I agree, Rick, I agree. I’ll file the emergency protective order for Adam Rios. I’ll send it to you and the Butte County office by encrypted email, and ask that they serve it on June Rios.”
“Thanks, Jared.” I ended the call.
About fifteen minutes later, Jared called me back.
“Rick, I just read your paperwork on Adam Rios. He’s a freshman at Lincoln High, and my son Brian is a sophomore at Lincoln. They both have seventh period PE, and they are both on the varsity wrestling team. I’m sure they know each other. The way Brian talks, the wrestlers are a very tight-knit group of guys. I’ll talk to him about Adam tonight, and ask him if Adam can sit at the wrestler’s table during lunch.”
“That’s an interesting idea. Adam said that he’s the only freshman on the varsity team, and he feels left out. He said the wrestlers sit at tables with guys in the same grade. Like the sophomore wrestlers with sophomores, and so on.”
“Hmm. That’s not the way Brian describes it to me when he talks about the team. I’ll talk to him tonight and find out how it works.”
“Thanks, Jared. If Adam can sit with other wrestlers, that might help him a lot. There is only one thing. Adam told me that he’s gay.”
“Yes, I saw that on the paperwork. Brian is gay too, and he says he thinks that about fifteen percent of the wrestlers are gay. He’s had no problems being gay and being on the varsity wrestling team.”
“Adam said something similar, that the wrestlers don’t care whether he’s gay or not. I think talking to Brian and having him watch out for Adam would be a big help. And it will help bolster Adam’s self-confidence.”
“I’ll give you a call tomorrow and let you know what Brian says.”
“If you’re going to talk to Brian this evening, would you mind giving me a call tonight? You can use my cell number.”
“Okay. I’ll call you after dinner.”
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