HOUSTON - It’s a heartbreaking video that’s going viral: a Tennessee boy’s tearful message to his bullies. The video struck a nerve with celebrities around the country, from football players to pop stars to actors.
It’s also impacted everyday Houstonians like Saori Hernandez who says she was bullied as a kid and now has a nephew around the same age as Keaton Jones.
“I can relate to him,” said Hernandez. “I always wondered the same thing: why do people find pleasure in hurting others?”
So as a pre-school teacher, Hernandez says she encouraged nice words, kind actions, and open dialogue in her classroom.
“Our job as the teachers was to make sure (bullying) does get attention since we see it firsthand.,” said Hernandez.
For many schools in the Houston area, bullying has become a zero-tolerance issue, with all major local districts banning bullying, cyber bullying, and retaliation against those report it.
KHOU-TV found Monday that most local districts define bullying on their websites, as well as detailing how parents or students should report it, how the district investigates, and what punishments they dish out.
What should parents do if their child is being bullied?
“The first thing you would do is ask the child ‘Have you talked to the person that’s doing the bullying?’ because you want to empower the child first,” said Bill Prasad, a licensed professional counselor.
If that doesn’t work, Prasad, who is also KHOU’s mental health and wellness expert, recommends calling the school, asking the school psychologist or principal what their bullying policies and procedures are, then following up.
Prasad says confronting the bully’s parents should be the last resort for the victim’s parents.
“The example starts at home,” said Prasad. “Parents have to set the tone on what appropriate behavior is, and if one spouse is bullying another spouse, the child will probably act out in the same way.”
Prasad says parents can get ahead of the issue by talking to their kids about how to deal with bullies, including how to intervene as a bystander.
As for school districts, he recommends officials work to develop community inside the classroom and assign students to have lunch with kids having trouble making friends so they’re not alone.
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