Thursday, December 7, 2023

National Bullying Prevention Month: Hood County schools work to keep students safe


National Bullying Prevention Month takes place during October and started as a campaign in 2006 founded by Parents Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) and the National Bullying Prevention Center.

The campaign initially occurred during the first week of October, but expanded to the entire month in 2010.

PACER developed the initial campaign, National Bullying Prevention and Awareness Week, to raise awareness about bullying.

“National Bullying Prevention Month is a wonderful opportunity to prevent bullying by encouraging everyone to act with kindness, acceptance and inclusion. Now more than ever, it is crucial to join together in creating communities that are kinder, more accepting and more inclusive,” Julie Hertzog, Director of PACER’s National Bullying Center said.

The National Center for Education Statistics found that bullying is seen most in seventh grade; sixth and eighth grades fall just below seventh.

According to the Texas Association of School boards, the Texas Legislature adopted new requirements regarding bullying in public schools in 2021. Senate Bill (SB) 2050 built on existing law requiring each district to have a policy that prohibits bullying, including cyberbullying.

Granbury ISD, Lipan ISD, and Tolar ISD student handbook section regarding bullying reads as follows: “The district strives to prevent bullying, in accordance with the district’s policies, by promoting a positive school culture; building healthy relationships between students and staff; encouraging reporting of bullying incidents, including anonymous reporting; and investigating and addressing reported bullying incidents. Bullying is defined in state law as a single significant act or a pattern of acts by one or more students directed at another student that exploits an imbalance of power and involves engaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that:

• Has the effect or will have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or of damage to the student’s property;

• Is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student;

• Materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of a classroom or school; or

• Infringes on the rights of the victim at school. Bullying includes cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is defined in state law as bullying that is done using any electronic communication device, including through the use of a cellular or other type of telephone, computer, camera, electronic mail, instant messaging, text messaging, a social media application, an internet website, and any other internet-based communication tool.

Bullying is prohibited by the district and could include hazing, threats, taunting, teasing, confinement, assault, demands for money, destruction of property, theft of valued possessions, name-calling, rumor-spreading or ostracism. The district will use an age-appropriate survey regarding school culture that includes relevant questions on bullying to identify and address student concerns. Each campus has a committee that addresses bullying by focusing on prevention efforts and health and wellness initiatives. The committee will include parents and secondary students. For more information on this committee, including interest in serving on the committee, contact the campus principal. If a student believes he or she has experienced bullying or witnesses the bullying of another student, the student or parent should notify a teacher, school counselor, principal, or another district employee as soon as possible. Any district employee aware of a report of a bullying incident will relay the report to an appropriate administrator.”

Granbury ISD

According to the GISD website, “Granbury ISD prohibits bullying and harassment. A safe and civil environment is needed for students to learn and attain high academic standards and to promote healthy human relationships. The district believes bullying, harassment based on a protected class (such as sexual harassment), discrimination, intimidation, violence, and other similar disruptive behavior are detrimental to the establishment of a safe and civil learning environment.”

A student at Granbury Middle School was allegedly attacked inside a classroom and was hit twice in the eye as well as having hand sanitizer put in his eye on Sept. 13 according to the student’s mother Erin Davis.

This led Davis to open an investigation with the Granbury Police Department on Sept. 16; she filed a grievance packet with the district on Sept. 26 after she claimed GMS did not follow the district’s code of conduct.

GMS Principal Andy Smith made a statement on Facebook on Sept. 22 that read, “GMS Families, Granbury Middle School is aware of the situation circulating on social media regarding the poor choices a few students made last week. Campus leaders worked with students and parents to determine a positive course of action to ensure Granbury Middle School has the type of climate and culture where all students feel safe and have limitless opportunities to succeed. School administrators and local law enforcement have investigated the situation and administered appropriate disciplinary consequences according to the student code of conduct. We strive to work closely with parents to ensure all students feel safe and are supported within our schools. We encourage any parents with a concern to contact the campus directly.”

The HCN requested a statement from Smith about the incident where Smith responded, “We are aware of a situation that was reported to us. GMS administration investigated the incident and issued disciplinary consequences in line with the student’s behavior.”

To prevent further bullying Smith noted in his response to the HCN, “As a campus we discuss social skills with our students that include anti-bullying strategies. We have videos and announcements throughout the year that point out how to treat each other. Our counselors do intervention groups as well to allow students to talk through issues and resolve conflicts. As a campus this year we have also implemented Capturing Kids Hearts as a way of building stronger relationships on campus.”

Davis thinks more should be done.

“We just want to put pressure on Granbury to do the right thing. I don’t want to fight Granbury (ISD). All I’m asking is for GISD to follow and implement their code of conduct,” Davis said in an interview with the HCN. I think (Smith) made poor choices. He’s allowing people to come into his home and bully his kids. A simple ‘I’m sorry, we should have looked into this more’ would have sufficed me, and I would have been fine. Do the right thing and I’ll shut up.”

As part of National Bullying Prevention Month, the district shared on its website, “We take complaints of bullying very seriously. Learn how we identify, prevent and investigate bullying. Our ultimate goal as a district is to eliminate bullying in all its forms, whether online or in-person. Help us curb the national issue of bullying by taking action as a community and discussing the importance of prevention with your family.”

Other schools in the district are talking to students of all ages about bullying such as Brawner Elementary School where counselor, Ronda Herrin is going to hold guidance lessons for students and teach them about the importance of bullying.

Acton Elementary is also participating in becoming more aware about bullying as part of prevention month.

“Acton Elementary School has a strong character education program. We teach kids positive character traits such as responsibility, trustworthiness, respect, fairness, caring, citizenship, and decision-making throughout the year. In October, we celebrate Red Ribbon Week which focuses on making healthy choices and recognizing and resisting peer pressure,” Jill Jernigan, AMS counselor said. “We teach the students how to recognize bullying, the difference between bullying and teasing, and what to do if they see bullying happening. We take all reports of bullying seriously, investigate and put procedures in place to help students feel safe. We also have wonderful student leadership groups such as student ambassadors and bus leaders who help teach younger students by modeling good behavior and reporting incidents to adults. We want our students to love school, feel safe and know what to do and who to talk to if they see something unsafe happening. These are just a few of the ways we combat bullying at our school.”

To submit an anonymous bullying report to GISD visit its website at

Tolar ISD

Tolar High School Principal Clint Gardner noted he fortunately has seen very few cases of bullying while serving in his first year as principal.

“Teachers, students, and administrators have been proactive in this regard. If they see students that are struggling with relationships, they usually bring it up and address it head on in order to eliminate any escalation or misunderstanding that may be present,” Gardner said.

The district has many activities utilized to prevent bullying such as:

•Educating students at the secondary level through utilization of the Pacer National Prevention Guide — Creating a World without Bullying.

•At TJH, students create slogans and information posters and utilize quick tips and short animated clips to address bullying

•Utilization of student groups to create positive environments (Sunshine Committee)

•Utilization of “club days” to allow students of differing backgrounds to meet and enjoy each other in a relaxing, fun manner

•At Tolar Elementary, the Character Strong program focuses on nine essential character traits:

oRespect, responsibility, gratitude, empathy, perseverance, honesty, cooperation, courage, and creativity

oThese traits are talked about routinely in morning assembly and teachers provide activities in classrooms routinely.

oStudents are celebrated for standing up for others and showing positivity with a “Rattler Rave” where they can ring the bell in the hallway. Each six weeks, they have a “Celebration Rally” to celebrate displays of good character

•Utilization of confidential channels for students, parents, and staff to report incidents of bullying. We take each report seriously and investigate promptly.

“In today’s society, bullying is an ongoing problem. This is especially true for school-age children. At Tolar ISD, one of our strategic goals is to provide and maintain safe, healthy, and nurturing environments that promote character and service to others. As part of this goal, each campus participates in numerous activities to help prevent bullying from occurring on campus,” Superintendent Travis Stilwell said. “Our district’s anti-bullying efforts are aimed at creating a culture of respect, empathy, and kindness. We believe every child deserves to learn and grow without the fear of bullying. We strive daily to help our students become better students and citizens. In my opinion, each campus within the Tolar ISD does a great job with that.”

If a student believes he/she has experienced bullying or has been a witness to bullying of another student, it is important for the student or parent to notify a teacher, counselor, principal or another district employee as soon as possible. For this purpose, forms are available in the elementary and junior high offices for anyone who may need to report a bullying incident. It is important that all areas of these forms be completed accurately and completely in order for us to investigate the report appropriately. The reporter’s name(s) will not be revealed in order to prohibit retaliation. Students or parents can also report bullying anonymously via the district’s website at

Lipan ISD

“We take bullying very seriously and act immediately on all reports. We use an anonymous alert system so students can report bullying anonymously and 24/7,” Superintendent Ralph Carter said. “Bullying must be stopped but it takes all of us partnering together: students, staff, home, school and community. We continually educate students to stop bullying.”

Students or parents may report an alleged incident of bullying, orally or in writing, to a teacher, counselor, principal or other district employee. Students or parents may contact the district to obtain an incident report form that may be used to submit the complaint.

“Please note that after submission of the complaint to the district employee, the district may assign the complaint to a campus administrator to follow up on the submitted complaint and any other important matters pertaining to the complaint. We encourage you to communicate with your designated campus administrator during this time,” Lipan ISD’s website reads.