The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Symposium tackles bullying online, offline through community efforts

Symposium tackles bullying online, offline through community efforts - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Dr Lawrence Scott speaks at the school safety and anti-bullying symposium in Patriots Casa Ceremony Room on April 3, 2024. Photo courtesy of Facebook

Discussions of bullying, mass shootings and suicide dominated the Best of Both World’s Symposium April 3 in the Ceremony Room of Patriots’ Casa. 

Presented by Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s College of Education and Human Development, a panel made up of six expert speakers discussed anti-bullying policies, school safety and other important issues affecting educational institutions and communities. 

The panelists, who work on school safety and anti-bullying strategies, addressed the challenges they have observed and solutions that have proven helpful.   

“When I was your age, if someone was bullying me I just had to get home,” Lorenzo Gomez III, partner at Confluence Capital group, said. 

“You have a very different problem. You can take this,” he said, holding up his phone, “into the most intimate parts of your life.” 

Technology has become so intertwined with our daily lives that it leaves little room to escape its watchful eye. It’s easy to pick up the phone and open an app connecting us to millions of people.  

Gomez said people must decide what kind of internet user they’re going to be. 

Parents and teachers need to teach the younger generation to set boundaries. Many people are pressured by those around them and they don’t know it’s OK to say no.   

Gomez said he interviewed a former college basketball player who told him a story about a guy who missed a shot and got showered with hate.  

The panelists agreed that people have forgotten how to treat each other like human beings and that there is too much hatred to overlook. They encourage teachers and students to learn together how to treat each other with respect.

Maurine Molak, co-founder of David’s Legacy Foundation, said owners of social media channels need to take responsibility.

“I’m working on a federal bill called the Kids Online Safety Act and it actually holds social media companies accountable,” Molak said. “To be part of this shared solution that we been talking about tonight.” 

David’s Law honors David Molak and other kids who have suffered at the hands of online bullying. When working on the law, Molak brought in all the stakeholders, anyone who would be impacted by the legislation. That includes parents, teachers, students and anyone who would talk about the issue.  

The theme of the panels at A&M-San Antonio was that there has been a lack of communication among not just students but law enforcement and other adults.  

Molak said the only stakeholders who do not share the responsibility of the matter are the social media companies, which have taken little to no responsibility for their content that allows self-harm and drug purchases.  

The symposium’s moderator Dr. Stephen Lenz, professor and chair of the Department of Counseling, Health, and Kinesiology, said the issue of bullying is a collective problem that must be solved as a community.

“If this is all of our problems, we all have a place in the solution,” Lenz said. “You don’t have to be a mental health counselor to make a mental health difference.”

Lenz said law enforcement and school districts can be proactive by creating a sense of safety and inclusion for students and staff through establishing psychological contact and relationships with one another.

“We have to shift the paradigm if we want to be that rock that creates that ripple,” Lenz said. “It starts by that first piece of contact with somebody that’s right next to us.”

The panelists also expressed concerns about bullying and safety hazards for students within athletics divisions. 

Dr. Brandon Crooms, assistant professor of sport management at Trinity University, highlighted how sports can tackle bullying by building confidence, teaching respect and sportsmanship, and promoting inclusivity and teamwork for students.

“Sports are a great tool to develop character,” Crooms said. “I work on holistic development so looking at not just the athlete but them as a person because the world sometimes sees them just for how they perform. 

He added:“Playing sports cultivates a fostered environment of camaraderie, being part of a brotherhood or sisterhood that you might not experience outside the sport.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Jessica Moreno, project manager of the Education Service Center, Region 20, called attention to the urgent need for stronger policies and training to address bullying and campus safety. 

 “A child that is not embraced by the village will burn the village down to feel its warmth and our kids are burning down our villages,” Moreno said. “It is our job, our mission to stand in that gap. Every child, every campus, every classroom, every day needs to be valued, seen, and heard so our villages can stop putting out fires.”


About the Authors

Re'Uana Malone
Re’Uana Malone is a junior majoring in communications with a minor in sociology at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. She is originally from the small town of Lufkin, Texas located in the eastern part of Texas. She received her diploma from Lufkin High School. Along with her diploma, she also received her associates degree in high school from a local community college in her town, Angelina College. In her down time she loves to spend time with her family and friends and she also loves to listen to music, shop, and read e-books and articles of hidden historic events from the past.
Daniel Benavides
Daniel Benavides is a freshman majoring in communications at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. He was born and raised in San Antonio. After high school he went to The University of Texas at San Antonio for a liberal arts major, but did not like the experience and took one year off college. In his down time he enjoys drawing, listening to pop-rock music, and playing video games. After graduation he hopes to become a reporter.

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