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CVHS Alumna's Tale of Bullying Reveals GUSD Failings

A CVHS student filed a sexual harassment complaint against the Glendale Unified School District in 2007. The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, reported GUSD did not protect the student who alleges she was severely bullied at CVHS.

February 10 is Rosetta Ragusa’s birthday. This is the same day that Drew Ferraro, 15, .

Drew’s story, his voice, became a community topic focused on bullying, which --although Los Angeles County Sheriff’s homicide investigators and .

In the wake of , former CVHS student Rosetta Ragusa, who is now an adult, came to Patch with her own story of alleged abuse, about which she says the district did nothing.

"To this day I still feel bad about myself. I'm 22 years old, and to this day, those words stick to me, especially as a woman," Ragusa said in an interview with Patch.

"[I was] brutally exposed to teachers, to friends, to the kid that I sat next to in biology class. I was exposed about my private parts, my sexuality, and it was really sad. There were times I wanted to kill myself, but if it wasn't for my support system [then] I probably would have killed myself."

Ragusa's story is part of a complaint she filed against the Glendale Unified School District with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, saying that she was bullied at CVHS while the district stood idly by. 

Ultimately, the U.S. Department of Education found that the district violated federal law and ordered it to revise its policies and procedures for handling complaints of sexual harrassment.

It started when Ragusa was 16. She says that she was discriminated against on the basis of sex: That a group of students were referring to her in sexually explicit terms, calling her names in front of other students, teachers and on MySpace.

"I would get to school at 7 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m., and then I would go home and these same bullies would find me at home through the computer, and they would post and send me messages calling me the same names. Except the reason it hurt so much more was because it was for everyone to see," Ragusa said.

She complained for months to CVHS administration, teachers and Glendale Unified School District officials.

Ragusa’s school attendance suffered, her grades dropped and she also considered physical harm to herself, according to U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights records.

The federal agency conducted interviews with GUSD and the school administration. It concluded that the district failed to fully investigate her allegations, which included in a resolution agreement, according to records from the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.

Patch has reached out repeatedly to GUSD and school officials, who have yet to respond.

How Ragusa's Sexual Harrasment Allegations Started 

In 2006, Ragusa told her guidance counselor and school adminstrators that her ex-boyfriend, Brandon Brotsky, and some of his friends were spreading sexual rumors about her and making sexual comments to her, both during school and on MySpace, according to investigation documents from the U.S. Department of Education.  

School staff met with Brotsky, who denied this happened, officials said. Staff observed him but didn't find anything wrong. 

But Brotsky now admits to some of the alleged abuse. Patch interviewed Brotsky, who is now 21 but was a 16-year-old junior at the time the incidents started with Ragusa. Brotsky confirms that he confided with two other students and spoke in sexually explicit terms about Ragusa--referring to her private parts. 

Brotsky blames Ragusa for making things worse. "I understand why she'd be upset if someone said that about her, but at the same time, by her going and telling everybody about it, she made the whole situation worse," Brotsky said.  

Brotsky alleges that Ragusa told other students that he made these comments about her. "What would happen is she would complain so much and say people were spreading rumors, but the truth is that she was telling people and spreading the rumors," Brotsky said.  

Still, he admits the exchanges were out of hand. 

"I just didn't want to be with her, and all my friends just ganged up on her. She said mean things to them. They said mean things back," Brotsky said. 

Rosetta began retaliating during a heated exchange on a public MySpace bulletin board with another student, and other students started siding against her, according to the U.S. Department of Education report. 

"Many comments and names directed at the complainant in the exchange were sexual in nature, referring in a derogatory way to private parts of her body, explicitly describing her engaged in sexual acts, impugning her reputation regarding sex and referring to her by gender-specific, sexual terms," the report states.  

Ragusa said she couldn't escape the group of students, who she said bullied her at CVHS and after school. 

Brotsky says now that he believes Ragusa contributed to the harassment at the time. 

"Everything that was said, she took everything that other people said, and made it like she was a victim. She'd make it seem like everyone was out to get her, but that wasn't really the case," Brotsky said. 

"All those sexual harrassment things were her fault, because she was the one telling people about it, trying to be a victim," Brotsky said. "I said one thing and she spread it. Honestly, I didn't spread sexual rumors about her."  

One student printed out copies of the Myspace exchange and showed them to other students at school, according to the report.

School adminstrators brought Ragusa, Brotsky and several other students into a room for two hours, discussing what happened, the report states. 

"It was me with four of the kids that were writing sexual things about me, and I felt overpowered and scared," Ragusa said in a July 2007 email to the Office of Civil Rights in San Francisco. 

The students signed a promise treaty, saying that they would not retaliate against each other. 

But the abuse went on. Although Ragusa notified administration at CVHS, she said the teasing continued.

"...Later on, throughout the school year, I informed the principal and assistant principals how kids were retaliating out to me, and I felt that the administration was getting tired of hearing me complain about these kids that called me names in the hall and wrote sexual things about me," Ragusa wrote to the agency in her complaint. 

In May 2007, Ragusa wrote to former CVHS Principal Linda Evans, detailing the events, indicating that she considered hurting herself, according to the investigation. Evans took immediate action and met with Ragusa and several other school administrators. 

In July 2007, Ragusa submitted an electronic complaint to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. 

"I contacted the [Office of Civil Rights] when I was 16, and I wrote to them. A couple days later they sent me an urgent [package] in the mail that said they needed to open this case immediately," Ragusa said.  

The case took about three years to resolve. Both Ragusa and the district received the investigation findings on Oct. 15, 2010. 

District Found to Violate Title IX

Because the school and district receive federal funding under Title IX--which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities--the U.S. Department of Education found that the district violated Title IX because procedures weren't clear for handling complaints of sexual harrassment. 

Both the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, and Ragusa had requests for the school and district. 

"After I won this case, I told the school district what I expected from them. I made a list with the [California] Women's Law Center of certain things that I wanted them to prevent bullying and to prevent suicides like Drew's," Ragusa said.

Ragusa didn't want other students to face bullying. 

"I asked them to have a schoolwide bullying prevention program and easy access to counselors when you are getting bullied and a lot of awareness about bullying in the school to show students that you're not alone and it's not tolerated," Ragusa said.  

The school's sexual harassment policy was revised and the school was required to notify parents and students of this policy, according to the resolution agreement. 

In addition, the district was required to instruct teachers how to best respond to allegations of sexual harrassment to specifically, Crescenta Valley High School employees and district level staff who investigate and respond to these complaints, the resolution states. 

Student instruction on sexual harassment was also required, to show other students how they could handle complaints like Ragusa's. 

By June 2011, GUSD was asked to provide a report of all sexual harrassment complaints filed during the 2010-2011 school year and the district's response to those complaints, according to the resolution, signed by GUSD Superintendent Dr. Richard Sheehan on Oct. 13, 2010. 

Patch tried repeatedly to reach out to the district. GUSD officials did not return several phone calls and emails to Patch. 

That resolution agreement is currently being monitored to ensure it is fully implemented, according to a U.S. Department of Education.

Life for Ragusa Following the Investigation of GUSD 

Although Ragusa is a 22-year-old woman, she says she can't forget the students booing her while her name was called at Crescenta Valley High School's graduation. 

It's been a several years since the investigation closed. A club called Stand Up, Speak Out Against Bullying now meets at CVHS to discuss student bullying problems. 

Following Drew's campus suicide, , and students met together at the Firehouse, a La Crescenta teen center.

The school also added a communication tool for students called "The Box" in the entry way of the counseling office, which allows students to share a thought or concern anonymously. 

While this may help students at the school today, Ragusa still remembers the harrassment and was shocked to hear about Drew's suicide. 

"I just feel that this shouldn't have happened to Drew because there have been so many cases in the media," Ragusa said. 

"The district violated their student's civil rights," Ragusa said, speaking of herself. "I feel like they failed Drew, just like they failed me."

Jessica Hamlin March 26, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Wow, I applaud Rosetta speaking out about this. How sad that someone is saying she made it worse by actually bringing attention to the bullying and trying to do something about it. And to even be booed at graduation? Gosh, I don't miss high school.
Elizabeth Nazarian March 26, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Why was the Glendale School District so quick to deny bullying was involved in the death of Drew? I never understood that. There was no investigation about bullying; merely a flat out denial. That speaks volumes to me. Good for Rosetta for trying to turn her tragedy into something positive for others!!! Cheers to her and may she have a full and wonderful life.
Lizzie Espinoza March 26, 2012 at 04:36 PM
The ex-boyfriend sure makes it obvious that he hasn't matured. Maybe he'll change his tune once he has a baby.....maybe a daughter??
Naomi March 26, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Good for you Rosetta! Ignore the hater's they will always be out there.
Nicole Charky (Editor) March 26, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Hi Vicky H., thank you for commenting, however, this is not a platform for attacking anyone so please refrain and leave this space as a means for open discussion. Sexually explicit comments, such as yours, are not appropriate. If you have questions or would like to write a letter to me, please feel free to email me at nicole.charky@patch.com. Thanks again for reading this article.
Chloé Michelle Soleta March 27, 2012 at 12:59 AM
I agree with John Mac. Both sides are to blame. The ex bf shouldn't have said anything and Rosetta shouldn't have gone around telling a bunch of people about her problems trying to attract attention to make her look like the victim. Unfortunately, it backfired on her and she probably shouldve just not spread anything about herself. To sum up, just sounds like bad high school drama, that these kids are still too immature to handle properly themselves, otherwise things wouldn't have gone so out of hand.
Ginger Maldonado Galloway March 27, 2012 at 04:47 AM
The law is clear on harassment in California. The Ex was and still is in the wrong. Period. What if his mother, sister, cousin came home with the same complaint about people spreading and saying horrible things about them? Both sides are not to blame. The side that started it is the origination point, the side at fault. She is the victim not "look like the victim". I investigate harassment claims at my work and from what I’ve read is in this article and in the comments; Mr. Ex was/is wrong and in violation of anti-harassment policies. There are specific anti-harassment laws in California; it is one of the most common workplace issues and problems because people like this Ex and a few others who wrote comments think that it is OK to demean and disrespect others. When it happens to you or someone you know, you know when it is wrong.
Actual Victim March 27, 2012 at 06:23 AM
Interesting, considering the only student during my high school career who ever bullied me about my sexual orientation was mentioned in this article. Hint: it was not Brandon Brotsky.
Dirk Diggler March 27, 2012 at 06:31 AM
This is ridiculous... She was not being bullied. It was heated arguements. When stuff like this leaks out it is because of her sake. This is disgusting and absolutely ridiculous. Drew killed himself and Rosetta wants her name out there, that is exactly what happened.
Actual Victim March 27, 2012 at 06:34 AM
Also, Brandon was one of the most kind and friendly people at CV, and it's really sad to see his name tarnished so quickly because of other people's actions.
Rosetta Ragusa March 27, 2012 at 07:08 AM
Hi this is Rosetta Ragusa. Just to clear somethings up. I DO NOT tolerate such attacks and I DO NOT ACCEPT these attacks. This article was to inspire young people who are being bullied to stand up and survive - no matter what. I want to remind each and every one of you that the words you called me and the stories you told of me even to this day hurt me but I promise you these words will never stop me from giving others hope. I will continue to be strong because I have been since I was 16. Cyrus, Rusty, Dirk and everyone else that took their time to continue to cyberbully me 5 years later...I am strong and I will continue to be strong for the people who need it and deserve it. I won a OFFICE OF CIVIL RIGHTS case for a VIOLATION OF TITLE 9. And I also won my battle against the hate and cruelty of bulliers and I will continue to survive. Please learn from your mistakes and change a persons life in a positive way. You still have a chance. God bless.
Rosetta Ragusa March 27, 2012 at 07:23 AM
This is Rosetta Ragusa. Thank you for your peaceful insight. It means a lot.
Rosetta Ragusa March 27, 2012 at 07:24 AM
sorry you feel that way but that is not what happened. i hope you will be able to one day change someones life in a positive way to make up for what you contributed as a bystander. I believe you will. hope your doing well.
Rosetta Ragusa March 27, 2012 at 07:26 AM
Again Dirk this is a article that is to bring an example of preserverance and strength for those who have been bullied. Please stop accusing me and bullying me. I know you are better than this because we are all human and have the power to bring happiness to this world. good luck
Rosetta Ragusa March 27, 2012 at 07:29 AM
again this is a story to inspire others that there is hope in the world. If you have a problem with me this is not the place to broadcast it. Young victims may be reading this article in search for hope and then if they see this retaliation from people like you this could be scary for them.
Falcon Alum 04 March 27, 2012 at 07:29 AM
I really hope the author reconsiders this article until learning more facts about this girl, cause from what I've been told, she was no different than the people she claimed bullied her.
Rosetta Ragusa March 27, 2012 at 07:32 AM
I find it sad to read this kind of insight. Just so that you know I told school authorities what was going on because I was fearful of the bulliers. I didn't spread rumors about myself or others that were involved. It is important to know all the facts of the story before you turn to judge someone because that is how bullying starts. good luck and remember you have the power to change someones life positively and you always have the chance and the ability to do so. good luck.
Rosetta Ragusa March 27, 2012 at 07:34 AM
Just so that you know the author got all her information as FACTS from a legal government document from the OFFICE OF CIVIL RIGHTS. So journalistically speaking the article is balanced and fair based on documents that were provided by the government. Sorry you feel that way. But reality is what stands here.
Rosetta Ragusa March 27, 2012 at 07:39 AM
Well I am going to go back to my life. It was nice catching up with all of you. It looks like a majority of you need to realize that bullying is not acceptable by law or by moral following people. I know that when I wake up there will be more comments from bullies. NOTE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE LOOKING FOR HOPE: I am ok. I am strong. This is not ok what people are doing on here but things will get better just like President Obama says. believe in good in the world and good will always survive so you will survive too. I believe in you. Good night
Falcon Alum 04 March 27, 2012 at 08:00 AM
Yah, a legal government document shows the fact that the school failed to stop bullying when they didnt help stop you from bullying others
Rusty Shackleford March 27, 2012 at 08:10 AM
No Rosetta we are not "Cyber Bullying You" We are asking YOU to take responsibility for YOUR actions. Which you seem to be MORE than willing to sweep under the table and refuse to address. If you want to "help stop bullying" YOU SHOULD TAKE A LONG HARD LOOK IN THE MIRROR.
Objective Observer March 27, 2012 at 08:25 AM
Rosetta, Reading through these comments, it appears no one is bullying you through them. No one is calling you names or threatening you. Instead, they seem to be bringing to light a side of your story that would have otherwise never been revealed. You are certainly in a position to construct a particular image of yourself to those who are viewing this situation for the first time, and there are others out there who seem to know this situation from many other angles (and some very specific examples, as well). Who is right and who is wrong? Who is being completely honest? Let others speak, and don't try to discredit whatever they say by blanketing them with the term "bully." Aren't baseless accusations an integral part of bullying? Could bullies call other people bullies as a form of bullying? I think it's possible. If we keep this an open discussion, the truth and the lies should become apparent. Don't try to nitpick and discredit every person that disagrees with you, or remembers you much differently than you think of yourself. If you continue to do just that, then the lady doth protest too much, methinks.
Johnny S. Moon March 27, 2012 at 08:31 AM
So every comment or reply that goes against you should be deliberately considered bullying? I don't condone what you do and I think it's good that you're letting the board know how bullying fits into high school but there's only so much that school officials or teachers can do. High school students will always have a confused and misinterpreted perspective on what is "cool" and "popular" because that's just how we grow. I think it's unfair that you're acting as if you had the worst high school experience. Many people had it just as bad as you, or even worse than you. I don't want you to feel cornered or victimized because no one will ever fully understand what you went through.. but I can say that people don't always hate or criticize for no reason. After all, they have better things to do. Try listening for once instead of brushing off every critic as a "bully" and even better, give forgiveness a chance. Just that what someone says to you goes against your view of yourself doesn't mean it's bullying. Consider it constructive criticism. This applies to high school life, post-grad life, work life, married life. It's not like if your boss at work says "Your effort at work is not up to par with other employees' efforts in the office," you can call him a bully.
Kory Barkley March 27, 2012 at 08:34 AM
I feel that Brandon has a lot more people to back him up about what actually happened than Rosetta having this desperate attempt to try and prove her case. Brandon doesn't even need to comment this article because he clearly has other people that will tell the actual truth for him, rather than these so called "facts." I understand the purpose of this article is to raise awareness of bullying, however, the editor and Rosetta is presenting Brandon in a bad light. It gives the impression that after 5 years, this situation has still not cooled off. Knowing Brandon personally for over 10 years, this is clearly misrepresenting Brandon about who he was and who he is today.
Nicole Charky (Editor) March 27, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Hi Cyrus, I'm not sure whether you caught my note above, but please refrain from using offensive or sexually explicit terms in the comments section. If you have questions or would like to write a letter to me, please feel free to email me at nicole.charky@patch.com. Thanks again for reading this article.
Nicole Charky (Editor) March 27, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Hi Rusty Shackleford, thank you for reading. We have removed your comment because it does not meet our terms for open discussion.
Actual Victim March 27, 2012 at 03:49 PM
My apologies, though I do believe it was important to let people know the hurtful things this individual used against others at this school including myself. I guess it says something that the words she used against me were so crude that they weren't allowed on this site (starts with an F, three letters, extremely offensive, just in case).

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