LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz - A West Valley teen who says he was bullied incessantly for years is now putting pressure on his former school district to make policy changes.
Merik Castro, 13, says he was bullied on a daily basis because of his sexual orientation at Wigwam Creek Middle School, part of the Litchfield Elementary School District.
"They were calling me faggot, gay, girl, girlie," he says.
Castro says he and his parents took repeatedly took concerns to administrators, but the antagonists were minimally punished.
The District Superintendent offered to facilitate a transfer to another school, or to arrange for homeschooling. Castro ultimately decided to accelerate a grade and transfer to a charter high school.
"They were saying, you're choosing this lifestyle, that I should get home schooled. It just didn't seem right, shouldn't they tell the bully they don't want them at the school for bullying?" Castro says.
This week Castro launched an online petition on the national website, Change.org, titled "Litchfield Elementary School District: Start Taking Bullying Seriously."
It's something district administrators say they've long done.
"There's no question that this is an issue," says Ann Donahue, community liaison for the district.
Donahue said school administrators disciplined numerous students in relation to Castro's complaints of bullying.
"By no means do we want students to feel unsafe in our schools or campuses, so we will do whatever we can to make sure bullying doesn't happen in our schools," Donahue says.
Castro will present his petition to the Litchfield Elementary School District at a October 4th meeting board meeting.
At that meeting, the board will vote on updating their bullying policy to reflect recommendations of the Arizona School Board Association, Donahue says.