YUCCA VALLEY, Calif. - A local community is rallying in support of a 13-year-old autistic boy believed to have been bullied for more than a month.
His family and friends gathered at a Yucca Valley bus stop where the middle school boy's family says he was physically assaulted last week.
"His friends asked the kid today, 'why are you bullying him?' and he said, 'because he's autistic.' So he's literally coming after my son because of his disability," said Ashley Gaona, the mother of Frank Gaona, a seventh-grade student at La Contenta Middle School in Yucca Valley.
"He said he'll beat me up, rape the ducks, jump the fence, kill the dogs," Frank said, Monday afternoon. He explained that those are just some of the threats he's heard almost every day for the past month.
"They (Frank and bully victim) live on the same street, so they generally go the same way. He throws things at him, he cusses at him, he's always threatening him and my son was like, 'Mom, I don't know what to do," Ashley said.
The bullying was reported to school officials last month and the offenders were put on a "no contact" contract. But Ashley says the bullying escalated.
"These kids kicked my son on the back, knocked him to the ground. It was bad. I reported it to the police. I've spoken to the police officer. I reported it to the school multiple times and no one is doing anything, so we're out here hoping to prevent it," Ashley explained.
Ashley and other moms, dads and grandparents waited at the bus stop after school. They held anti-bullying signs. Within minutes, other parents from schools across the Morongo Unified School District came forward to share their stories.
"She used to love to come to school and now she wants to get home schooled because of it (bullying). Bullying is just not right," said Kyle Jarvis, parent of a sixth-grade bully victim.
La Contenta Middle School's assistant principal couldn't comment on the specific incident, but says the situation is being investigated and applauds the community for raising their voices against bullying.
"It sucks seeing my friend getting bullied because he's autistic. There's definitely going to be a lot of people recognizing the signs. People are getting bullied and they want to stand up too," said Michael Myers, a friend of Frank's.
Additional resources regarding bullying:
Nation Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Boo to Bullying
A Coachella Valley and Los Angeles based network for youth to share their stories about bullying