The superintendent of the Beeville Independent School District was speaking at a meeting at the Bee County Exposition Center to examine the bullying problem in this community.
She said the concern of most community members here is to prevent something like the recent suicide of a student in Flour Bluff who had been bullied by schoolmates.
Thomas was one of many who spoke at the event, but her words carried weight, because most bullying stems from actions at the schools.
The superintendent said the BISD has a web site where students can report bullying episodes. Although she found only three reports so far, she was sure that the problem was bigger than that.
“I’m the only one who sees those,” Thomas said of the emails.
She added that she had found some false reports, riddled with obscenities, on the site.
“It takes all of us,” Thomas told parents and others at the meeting. “We probably have your children more than you do.”
Thomas said parents can tell if their children are being bullied in school because they are often afraid to return to the classroom. She said if that is the case, “they’re not going to learn.”
“Bullying can happen anywhere,” Mayor Santiago “Jimbo” Martinez told those attending as he offered some opening remarks.
“We don’t want to be the next Columbine,” Martinez said. “I’m committed to do whatever it is they need from me,” he said of bullying victims.
Corpus Christi attorney Stephanie Silvas opened the session. She said that she, Angel Care Ambulance Service co-owner Mickie Ochoa and Beeville Police Department Patrolman Greg Baron had organized the anti-bullying effort.
Baron is the BPD’s gang intelligence and crime prevention officer.
“I can’t promise you it’s going to be a light switch,” the officer said of efforts to deal with bullies. But he said new laws have been passed that give police and school officials more power to deal with bullying problems.
One young woman in the crowd spoke of her problems in the past with bullying when she was a sophomore in high school. She admitted that some athletes had harassed her and that she had even considered suicide.
She said she has since not only graduated from high school but also has graduated from college.
She said that she had reported the incident, but in the end, she had been punished as much as the athletes.
Deputy Lt. Ronnie Jones of the Bee County Sheriff’s Office echoed what Baron had said, noting that laws have been passed recently that make it easier to deal with the problem.
District Court Bailiff Bill Lazenby said he had dealt with bullying problems for much of the 40 years he has spent in law enforcement. “The police are usually the last ones to know,” he said.
“If you’re being bullied, you need to call me, and I’ll see that it stops,” promised Police Chief Joe Treviño.
Sheriff Carlos Carrizales Jr. assured those at the meeting that his office has zero tolerance for the problem.
Silvas said it is important to get students involved in solving the problem. It was students who started the effort to deal with bullying in Corpus Christi.
Silvas also said that much of the problem seems to be between girls, and a lot of bullying is done over social media on the Internet, like Facebook.
Retired teacher Mary Joy told the gathering that bullying is a problem that occurs from soon after birth to old age. She assured those at the meeting that students here have made efforts to deal with the problem.
“Kids that care will jump up and help,” Joy said.
Local pastor Carl Pickett urged bullying victims to go to their clergy, and they can get help in that situation.
State Rep. J.M. Lozano, who attended the meeting, spoke briefly concerning legislation that had been passed in the last legislative session.
“We have good kids here,” Baron told those at the meeting. “We have a lot more good kids than bad ones.”
As far as dealing with the problem of bullying, “we’re doing the best we can,” Baron said.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.