HOUSTON Federal, state and local officials gathered Monday to discuss solutions to school bullying during a town hall meeting at Houston City Hall.

The politicians heard from child education experts, parents and their kids, who urged school administrators to pay attention to what many are calling a nationwide epidemic.

The issue has drawn harsh scrutiny over the past few weeks. Last month, 13-year-old Asher Brown s family blamed bullying for the Cy-Fair student s suicide. There have been several other similar cases throughout the country. Last week, an openly gay Fort Worth city councilman broke down in tears as he recalled his own high school experiences with bullies.

The meeting, which was organized by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, lasted more than three hours, due to the number of speakers.

I want to know how you're going to address this now, said Gretta Dickson, the mother of a Fort Bend Independent School District eighth-grader who says her daughter is being bullied. She's got to get an education, but at this point, I don't what to do.

During the meeting, attendees attempted to come up with ways to deal with the problem.

I think we should, no doubt, leave here tonight with a policy of zero-tolerance for bullying, said State Sen. John Whitmire (D) Houston. The real challenge will be how do you define bullying.

Advocates are pushing state lawmakers in Austin to pass tougher anti-bullying laws that would make it easier for kids to report bullies and allow schools to track them.

Many parents at Monday s hearing blamed school administrators for not doing enough.

They're pushing it underneath the rug, said Tammy Lunsford, who said her son was tormented for five years. [The toughest part is] knowing that you can't protect your child.

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