BARSTOW Nine-year-old Lorayna Chavez and high school sophomore Hayley Espinoza attend different schools, but they have something in common: They both have been victims of bullying.

A student at Montara Elementary School, Lorayna's bullying experience stemmed from a single girl, who had teased her and called her names. Hayley's experience was similar. During her freshman year at Barstow High School, two girls would make fun of her, she said.

"They made a lot of fun of me," she said, adding that she didn't do anything about it. "I was a little intimidated."

Bullying has been linked to nearly a dozen recent suicides across the country, including the September suicides of 13-year-old Seth Walsh in Tehachapi and 18-year-old Tyler Clementi of Rutgers University. These incidents have caused concern among local school officials. To address and track bullying incidents, Barstow Unified School District psychologist Dan Cullier is developing a policy for principals and teachers districtwide.

Cullier has already come up with a policy outline for the district and presented it to the district's cabinet, which is made up of administrators and principals. The second step in developing the bullying policy is researching bullying programs at other districts and discovering what is effective. Once the cabinet gives the policy its approval, Cullier will bring it before the BUSD School Board.

"There was no single incident within the district (that prompted this policy)," Cullier said. "I went to bullying training and I, along with some of the other psychologists, noticed more serious bullying throughout the nation. And the introduction of cyber bullying has created greater concern where our kids can't just escape it anymore."

The key to addressing bullying at school is to get students to talk with teachers and others in authority, said high school principal, Scott Godfrey. Many teens prefer to handle situations on their own and cases of bullying goes unreported to those in charge.

Hayley said if her bullying situation continued she'd likely just take it. If her friends were being bullied, she would do something about it, she said. But that something would depend on the situation.

When asked what a school could do about bullying, Hayley said apart from suspensions there isn't much. She pointed out that if the bullying incident was a case of a group of students shunning another student, there isn't anything teachers could do about it.

"The most they can do is arrest and expulsion," she said. "If the bullied doesn't report it, what can (schools) do?"

Lorraine Chavez, Lorayna's mother, said she spoke with her daughter's bully directly and then the principal, who made the two girls become friends. Bullying cases would decrease, she said, if parents would pick their kids up and drop them off at school more often.

Lorayna says the other little girl still teases her, but her mother said the bullying issue was resolved.

"As long as they don't put their hands on my daughter she can handle everything else," Chavez said.

"Bullying should stop though," Lorayna said.

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(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com