Bullying was all the talk at Lotspeich Elementary School on Friday - preventing it, that is.
The school hosted a discussion between parents from schools around Robstown and Billy Simms, who has authored a booklet on how to prevent and identify bullying. He has also given numerous speeches to school districts around South Texas on the subject, according to information posted on his Web site.
Simms was also with the Robstown Independent School District from 1993-00, serving as an assistant principal at Seale Jr. High School for four years and a teacher at Ortiz Intermediate School for three years.
At Friday's seminar, about 20 parents and educators listened as Simms spoke about the signs that a child may be getting bullied at school, such as making excuses regularly in order to avoid going to school or having to ride the bus on a regular basis.
The subject is personal for Simms, who grew up in San Antonio, but now resides in the Annaville area, because he was bullied as a child. Watching out for the signs is key, because most children will not reveal that they are being bullied, he said.
"Most kids who are victims of bullies are not going to tell their parents and they are not going to tell their teachers," Simms said, adding that there are more than two groups of individuals who are impacted by bullying.
"If you're not a bully, and you're not a victim, you're going to be what's called a bystander," Simms said. "That's a difficult situation for a child to be in. Witnessing a bullying event is a difficult thing for a kid to go through."
But the reason bystanders oftentimes do nothing, Simms said, is simple.
"They don't want to get beat up," he said.
As a result, bullying can often continue for weeks, months or even years, until a child decides to talk to someone. That is why parents and teachers need to play a more active role in identifying when bullying is taking place, Simms said.
"Those who say that bullying is not a problem have not seen it happen," he said. "But if the kids say it's a problem, then it's a problem and we've got to step in. That's the most important thing - doing something about it."
Simms also explained that bullying is not based purely on physical torment, but can be just as damaging, if not more so, with words. Any physical bullying is likely to happen outside of school or on a school bus, he added.
"Physical bullying doesn't happen much at school because they get caught," Simms said. "Verbal bullying is the most popular form of bullying because there is no evidence. It ends up becoming a 'He said, she said,' kind of thing, and it causes the most pain."
After the seminar, parents presented Simms with gifts of appreciation for his speech, which Simms gave to the school district at no charge.
Norma Castaneda, principal at Lotspeich, said the event was a success because of the knowledge it imparted on the parents.
"Prevention is the biggest thing," Castaneda said. "If this can make parents more aware of some of the signs, then maybe they can understand why their child may not want to go to school."