BVH attendance director Leonard Lopez misinterpreted a student gathering in the 500 building bathroom to be a fight, resulting in the “assault” of a student. The students were following an online trend of singing the Halo theme song in a public restroom.
As lunch began at Bonita Vista High School on May 25, a group of students gathered in the quad and migrated toward the 500 building boy’s bathroom. Curious, other students followed the group, only to find them humming the theme song of the video-game franchise, Halo.
“We were just hanging out, having fun and we thought it was a funny idea,” rising sophomore Isaac Espino said. “It wasn’t coordinated. It was just one of those things where you see a big group and you follow them.”
Nearby staff members were alerted of a disturbance and approached the group to intervene. One of the students began recording on their phone as BVH attendance director Leonard Lopez walked into the bathroom to grab Espino by the shoulder strap of his backpack and say, “get out,” believing a fight was taking place.
“Part of [the Sweetwater Union High School District’s] and the school’s responsibility is to ensure that everybody is safe. So when there’s a gathering of students like that but you’re not really sure what’s going on, part of what has to happen is that you have to make sure that everybody is where they’re supposed to be,” SUHSD communications director Manuel Rubio said.
Rising junior Brandon Casiple, a witness to the incident, agreed that the commotion could have added to the perception that a fight was occurring.
“I bet you if you were outside you could probably hear people. Because it wasn’t on pitch it probably sounded like people shouting as if there was a fight,” Casiple said.
BVH principal Roman Del Rosario, pHD.; I. Espino; and mother of I. Espino, Rosa Espino, believe that Lopez’s handling of the situation was inappropriate, stating that I. Espino should not have been touched when it was not absolutely necessary. R. Espino believes the incident to be a case of assault.
According to Del Rosario, in a situation like Lopez’s, the staff member should take a few seconds to analyze the source of the commotion, then attempt to break up the scene verbally; physical contact with a student should only be employed as a last resort.
“I think that all the adults that work at this school have a tremendous responsibility to maintain a safe and nurturing environment,” Del Rosario said. “In this case, I think Mr. Lopez’s adrenaline lead to him making a decision that I don’t support and for that I apologize.”
After hearing about the event via a phone call with her son, R. Espino reported the case to the Chula Vista Police Department, providing the student-posted video of the incident. R. Espino has also filed three complaints about this incident to BVHS and the Sweetwater Union High School District under the charge of assault and battery.
“I was very upset when Isaac called me. I could literally feel my blood boiling,” R. Espino said. “I felt that I needed to report it to the police to make sure that [it] was documented so that way in future, if it should happen again, we would have documentation.”
After analysis and investigation, the CVPD determined that no crime was committed.
R. Espino urges for policy change within the regulations and guidelines for the pupil-instructor relationship. She suggests an online forum such as Rate My Teachers, where students and parents can discuss concerns they have with BVH staff.
“As parents we can all be aware of circumstances and situations [our kids are put into]. That way we can be more cautious in reference to [handling] those situations,” R. Espino said.
R. Espino also hopes that a guideline is created that details when it is suitable for a staff member to touch a student. When this conduct is broken, R. Espino hopes that incidences of staff misconduct are disclosed by BVHS administration and that those who are involved are appropriately punished.
Del Rosario states that the incident was “addressed,” but could not confirm whether Lopez would undergo disciplinary action, stating that the situation was a personnel matter.
“This was an unfortunate event. Personally, I am sorry that it happened and I take my responsibility of keeping a safe school very seriously,” Dr. Del Rosario said.
As a long term solution, Del Rosario plans to increase the number of faculty meetings and trainings so that administration is familiar with proper protocol.
“Part of my takeaway as a principal is that we really need more time as a faculty to come together,” Del Rosario said. “We want to act quickly in a way that prevents students from being hurt, but at the same time doesn’t limit our responsibility to evaluate situations.”
BVH attendance director Leonard Lopez could not be reached for comment.