ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A group of Abilene ISD parents, students, and even some concerned residents are speaking up about a bullying problem they say is going on within the schools, and they want to make a change to the school’s bullying policy following a video that’s gaining a lot of attention on Facebook.
Rocky Flores posted the viral video because he says his daughter is getting bullied, and he feels as if AISD’s bullying policy doesn’t move quickly enough to address this growing and complex issue.
“How many times does a child have to get bullied for you to realize that your guidelines are not working,” says Flores.
The video gained more than 13,000 views and 700 shares, and families started reaching out to him saying they felt the same about their children.
“I have over at least 60 messages, and probably at least 60 plus phone calls,” says Flores.
A group of these residents met up at Sears Park to discuss getting the school’s bullying policy changed to speed up the process.
“This is our first one. Let’s just put it that way. It’s our first one,” says Flores. “I will make sure there are many more. My voice will be heard.”
“While I don’t condone school shootings, I believe a lot of them are the result of people being bullied,” says Sienna Miller, a concerned resident who showed up to this meeting because she is concerned something worse can happen if this issue is not taken care of quickly.
Some students even spoke out at this meeting, saying they are tired of being bullied, including Abbi Hicks, a middle schooler who says, “I feel like it should be a safe place where you don’t feel shamed or made fun of.”
“I just want to have a nice 6th grade year and not have to worry about what’s going on,” says another middle school student who wishes to remain anonymous for protection.
This group says they will try to get changing the policy listed as an agenda item at a school board meeting.
However, Dr. Gustavo Villanueva, the Associate Superintendent for Leadership and Student Services at AISD, says their bullying policy largely comes from the state, and since these cases are situational, they try to stop each case as quickly as possible.
“There isn’t one way to deal with necessarily every situation,” Dr. Villanueva explains. “We’re given a guideline that it not take more than 10 days, but in general, it’s going to be much sooner than that.”
KRBC learned that the district deals with these cases daily, and even though he says the bullying issue has not necessarily grown over this past year, he believes it has grown through his 26 years of being with the district because of social media.
He says their bullying policy begins with their preventative measure they take to try to stop bullying before it ever happens, and those are listed below:
- ”Safe and civil schools” program is put in place to give a positive approach to how they make the culture in the school and deal with discipline.
- A Foundation Team looks at what is happening in the school and how to address it.
- CHAMPS is a way to structure what is happening in the classroom.
- The schools are required to have “Social Emotional Learning” at every level, including lessons that guidance counselors teach.
- Students are required to take internet safety lessons where cyber bullying is discussed.
When there is an actual report made regarding someone being bullied, the process is listed below:
- The administrators take as many notes about what occurred as possible so the school can investigate.
- An administrator is assigned to investigate the incident and takes steps to make sure it does not happen again. While they are investigating, disciplinary measures are taken, if needed.
- The administrators follow a checklist to decide if something is bullying or not.
- Even if something disciplinary has been done, the administrator will bring the situation to the bullying committee to decide if it is bullying or not and take further action, such as sending the student to an off-campus disciplinary setting or expelling a student.
In between these steps, the school notifies the parents about the investigation. They are also required to offer support, including counseling, to both students during that time.
“We know that having a safe environment – a civil environment – ensures that our kids are going to be more likely to learn, and so we’ve put all of these things in place because it takes more than one approach,” Dr. Villanueva.
Dr. Villanueva says he is willing to have a conversation with this group that is concerned and analyze ways the school can grow.
“This is a conversation we will have with administrators. Are we looking at it immediately and addressing it as immediately as we can,” he says, while mentioning he also wants the administrators to be diligent in their investigation. “If we see that that’s true, then [we will be] retraining our folks to make sure that we are moving as quickly as we can on investigations.”
However, Flores and others say they won’t stop until something has changed.
“The goal for this group right here is for our children to go to school safe,” Flores says.
AISD currently has a channel on their website called Speak up for Safety, where students can anonymously tell school leaders about their concerns, and you can access this channel by clicking here.