School districts take action to address bullying



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Posted on August 22, 2012 at 5:33 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 22 at 2:42 PM

Inside North Texas schools is a lot of hidden pain — kids who are bullied with the feeling of "no way out."

Brayden Schults knows. For two years, he's started school days with the same plea.

"Like, 'Mom, I don't want to go to school, everyone is going to bully me and stuff,'" he said.

"I don't want him to become depressed or hurt himself or someone else," said his mom, Dr. Erin Schults.

To build self-esteem, Schults enrolled Brayden in karate while she worried about what would come next. Will there be retaliation for speaking up to the principal multiple times?

"You also don't want to become that crazy parent, where when you come on campus, they all scatter, because there is the lady who nothing is done right in her mind," she said.

In Irving — which is not Shults’ district — those questions are about to get direct answers, thanks to Jose Villasenor, the coordinator of at-risk and responsive services.

"I think we really need something parents can grab onto," he said.

With "Talk About It," students will be able to send an anonymous text or e-mail message concerning any bully or suicidal thoughts. That information will create reports, in order to keep an eye on student victims and bullies.

That's the starting point.

Parents will also be educated on a direct path to remedy the problem, taking concerns first to the teacher; then the counselor or principal; and finally an administrator.

Going straight to the top creates more frustration, Villasenor said.

"If it is being handled at the classroom level, then the administrator doesn't know what is going on, so they send them back to the teacher, but then the parent feels like, 'You're not really helping me,'" he said.

A more complicated problem to solve is when bullying occurs online after school through social media.

Districts like Irving are trying to determine how much of what happens after school gets handled in school, and that's a work in progress.

"We do understand that if it trickles into a school day, or interrupts the education environment, then it is something we have to deal with," Villasenor said. "That has been a learning process for us as well."

As for Brayden Schults, things are getting better, but his frustrations remain.

"When they dumped me in the trash can, nobody did anything about it," he said. "It makes no sense."

Villasenor says that's where Irving hopes to be different by not just identifying the problem, but also putting bullies through character building.

"We're going to make an effort to help change that behavior so that there is no retaliation," he said. "All of that we hope to accomplish with this program."

Other U.S. cities using the "Talk About It" program said they've seen a 70 percent success rate so far. Some other North Texas school districts taking part in the program include Keller and Carrollton-Farmers Branch.