Back-to-school to-do list: Do you know how you’re getting to school and home again?

This morning, we looked up on the Bus Stop Utility Finder on the Austin ISD website to find my son’s school bus schedule. Egad! We’re losing seven minutes this year.

Travis Bradley and Julian Gonzalez run for the bus. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

We also looked on their school websites to figure out what time school starts because it actually varies by school. Shockingly, we’re still uncertain what time the middle-schooler starts because this year’s bell schedule hasn’t been posted. I’m hopeful they will let us know, soon. The high-schooler, though, gets 15 extra minutes in the morning (not really because of the bus).

Have you done the same?

Consider these things when it comes to how and when your child is getting to and from school:

Riding the bus? Find out what time and where the bus stops. Don’t rely on last year’s information. Even if it’s been the same for five years, this could be the year it’s not. (Usually schools send out this information about a week before. You also can look online at your district’s website). If your school district uses an app like “Where’s the Bus?” figure out how to download and use it.

Driving the kids? Do you need to arrange a car pool? Do you know how the school drop-off line flows at your school? Are your children prepared to go through that line, or do they need you to walk them in?

Walking or riding a bike to school? Have you practiced it? Do they know the route and what time they need to leave? Do they have a friend or two to join them? Will you be going with them or meeting them halfway, or will they be going it alone? If so, do they have a key to the home?

Figure out alternate plans. The bus is late, then what? They miss the bus, then what? The carpool falls apart, then what? You have one sick kid with bodily fluids pouring out of them, but the other one needs to get to school, or you’re sick … what happens then? It’s raining and they were supposed to walk, will you give them a ride?

Remember, starting Wednesday, when the first group of school districts head back to school, traffic in Central Texas is going to get interesting as we all adjust. Be on the lookout for kids in the street in and around school zones and in and around neighborhoods.

Please don’t be the driver in this video:

The American Academy of Pediatrics offer these safety tips:

School Bus

  • Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.
  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see her, too).
  • Remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required. Encourage your child to actually practice how to cross the street several times prior to the first day of school.
  • Your child should not move around on the bus.
  • If your child’s school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus. (If your child’s school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school system to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts). See Where We Stand: Safety Restraints on the School Bus for more information.
  • Check on the school’s policy regarding food on the bus. Eating on the bus can present a problem for students with allergy and also lead to infestations of insects and vermin on the vehicles.
  • If your child has a chronic condition that could result in an emergency on the bus, make sure you work with the school nurse or other school health personnel to have a bus emergency plan, if possibly, prior to the first day of class


  • All passengers should wear a seat belt or use an age- and size-appropriate car seator booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age). This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, not the stomach.
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations even when using hands-free devices or speakerphone, texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction.. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver’s license law and consider the use of a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process. Click here for a sample parent-teen driver agreement.


  • Practice the bike route to school before the first day of school to make sure your child can manage it.
  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic and ride in bike lanes if they are present.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.
  • Know the “rules of the road.”

Walking to School

  • Children are generally ready to start walking to school at 9 to 11 years of age.
  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school.  In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision. If the route home requires crossing busier streets than your child can reasonably do safely, have an adult, older friend or sibling escort them home.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them or have another adult walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely. If your child will need to cross a street on the way to school, practice safe street crossing with them before the start of school.
  • Bright-colored clothing or a visibility device, like a vest or armband with reflectors, will make your child more visible to drivers.

Get ready for school: Reset the sleep clock

Experts will tell you to start getting kids back on a schedule a few weeks beforehand by going to bed a few minutes earlier each night until you’re back on school hours. They’ll also tell you to avoid caffeine after lunch.

We know you didn’t do that, but you can start now, whether you have two more days until school starts or two weeks.

Are your kids ready to get up in the morning? This one is not.  Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Kids do require more sleep than adults. Think 10 to 11 hours on average for Junior.  National Jewish Health organization breaks it down this way: For newborns (0-3 months), that’s 14-17 hours a day; for infants (4-12 months), 12-16 hours; toddlers (1-2 years old) 11-14 hours; preschoolers (3-5 years old) 10-13 hours; school-age (6-12 years old) 9-12 hours; and adolescents (13-18 years old), 8-10 hours.

How do you know if they are getting enough sleep, which 25 percent to 40 percent of kids don’t at some point? Kids who are sleep deprived exhibit symptoms similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, have difficulty waking up, sleep more than two hours extra on the weekends, and fall asleep in inappropriate places.

Get kids involved in what the bedtime and morning routine will be. Will they shower in the morning or at night? Will there be a story before bed or just quiet time? Night light or no night light? Door open or shut? What time is lights out, and what happens if they don’t abide by that?

Doctors at National Jewish Health organization recommend these bedtime steps:

  • At least 30 minutes before bedtime, turn off all electronics and allow your child time to wind down. A consistent bedtime routine should include relaxing activities, such as a bath and a bed-time story (for young children) or reading time (for older children).
  • Create a proper sleeping environment. Bedrooms should be cool, dark, and comfortable.
  • Get technology out of the bedroom. Computers, televisions, video games, and cell phones should be removed from your child’s room and set up in a different location. Why? Because if not, your teenager could be getting texts and messages all night long from their friends who also aren’t sleeping, or your grade-schooler could be finding some fun things to watch on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network in the middle of the night.
Will your child be awake enough to hop on and off the bus? Erin Green/Bastrop Advertiser

In the morning, how will they wake up and at what time? Will they set the alarm or will you? Do they want you to yell at them or gently nudge them? Or do you need to physically move them until they make it to the bathroom and into the shower? How long will they have in the bathroom before someone else needs it?

Set the expectations early of what that nighttime and morning routine will be, but don’t set it in stone. One sick kid, one parent out of town, one early morning practice and you’ll need to make adjustments.

Happy sleeping and happy mornings!


Teachers, parents, do you know how to Stop the Bleed? Class, kits give life-saving techniques

[cmg_anvato video=”4149186″]

What would you do if someone was bleeding from a major trauma? Would you know what to do?

Would you know that you probably only have a few minutes to save that person’s life, and that if the bleed was bad enough, an ambulance might not be able to get to you in time?

Kristen Hullum, trauma injury prevention coordinator at St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center, instructs teachers on how to pack a wound at a Tuesday Stop the Bleed training session at Cedar Valley Middle School. Photo by Nicole Barrios

Now St. David’s Health Care is offering classes called Stop the Bleed, which teaches you what to do if you need to render aid to someone who is bleeding. (The next one is Aug. 22.) Think of it as the CPR class for bleeding. Instead of learning how to keep a person’s heart and lungs circulating, you’re learning how to prevent someone from bleeding out.

Kristen Hullum, a registered nurse and trauma injury prevention coordinator for St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center, says the class teaches what to do with what you have.

It reminds you to call 911, as well as make sure the scene is safe for you to help the person without being injured yourself.

Then it shows you how to look for the source of the bleeding, how to apply pressure, how to pack a wound, how to apply a tourniquet or two to stop the bleeding, and how to try to keep the area clean.

The class teaches you to improvise with what you have, but part of the Stop The Bleed program is to get more bleeding control kits in public places such as schools, churches and offices. Each kit, which sell for $69 online at, has a tourniquet, a bleeding control dressing, a permanent marker, protective gloves and a compression bandage as well as an instruction booklet. The idea is that you would put these kits wherever you’ve installed the defibrillator device used in a heart emergency.

Department of Homeland Security Stop the Bleed instruction card.

Unlike in a heart attack situation, you would want to have more than one kit available if there was a situation like a mass shooting or a tornado, which could cause more than one person to be bleeding.

Hullum really wants school districts to consider training their staff as well as stocking schools with the kits. She is working with Capital Area Trauma Regional Advisory Council, which is focusing on getting both law enforcement officers and school staffs trained as well as supplied with kits.

Cedar Ridge High School teachers Stephannie Williams, health science, and Michael Rodriguez, pharmacy practicum, practice applying a tourniquet at the Stop the Bleed training session held at Cedar Valley Middle School. Photo by Nicole Barrios

In recent years, schools have been doing drills with students and staff about what to do if a suspicious person arrives on campus, but not how to save someone if that suspicious person did start shooting.

“No school wants to think they’re going to have a mass casualty to their school,” Hullum says. “We really emphasize the class is for any type of bleeding from the wood shop to the playground. Kids do crazy things.”

If you’re interested in getting a class at your school or other public space, contact Brett Shryock at the council at or 512-926-6184.

Stop the Bleed Class

4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 22

St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, 901 W. Ben White Blvd. Auditorium A

To register, contact Lydia Blankenship at or 512-816-8037.

How to find the best deals this tax-free weekend

It’s tax-free weekend Friday-Sunday. Here are the important numbers you should know:

8.25 percent. 

That’s the maximum sales tax rate in Texas. That’s what you could save this weekend in Texas. It’s not as good as a 20-percent-off sale or even a 10-percent-off sale, but look for stores that are having sales on top of the tax-free weekend sale for the most value.

The school supply aisle is full of supplies ready to go into your cart. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN

What’s tax-free this weekend?

School supplies: Binders; backpacks and book bags; calculators; cellophane tape; blackboard chalk; compasses; composition books; crayons; erasers; folders — expandable, pocket, plastic and manila; glue; highlighters; index cards; index card boxes; legal pads; lunchboxes; markers (including dry-erase markers); notebooks; paper; pencil boxes and other school supply boxes; pencil sharpeners; pencils; pens; protractors; rulers; scissors; writing tablets.

Clothing: Most clothing; socks; most shoes; ties; coats; pajamas; swimsuits; uniforms; underwear; sports jerseys; sports hats.

Others: Adult and baby diapers.

What’s not tax-free?

Athetic items: Sports shoes like cleats or fishing boots; sports equipment; sports clothing only used for the purpose of a sport ( so not jerseys, swimsuits, sweatpants and yoga pants).

Sewing items: Fabric, buttons and zippers.

Accessories: All accessories including jewelry and watches.

Bags: Purses; luggage; wallets and briefcases.


That’s the average each household in the United States is expected to spend on back-to-school items this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s $14.15 more than last year.


Any one clothing item that has a price that is $100 or above does not qualify for tax-free savings.

$87 million.

That’s the amount of state and local sales tax Texans are expected to save this weekend.

A gazillion.

That’s the number of people expected to be shopping with you all weekend. Here’s our tips to deal with the crowds:

  • Have your list ready. Know which items you are going to look for at which store. Group like items together (pencils and pens together, notebook paper and printer paper, crayons and markers, etc.)
  • Shop for more than just the school list. Shop for supplies for home, too.
  • Go early in the morning before the rest of the world is awake.
  • Go late at night without kids, when kids are asleep.
  • Pace yourself. Don’t try to do every store in one day.
  • Ask yourself if the 8.25 percent off is worth dealing with the crowds. If it’s not, save the shopping for a less crowded time, but don’t wait too long. Last year, the back-to-school aisles were taken down by the third day of school. 

Find more back to school tips,

Back-to-school tips: Be healthy this school year

Did you remember to get your sports physical, your well-checks and your vaccinations up to date for the new year?

Find those forms so your child has them on the first day of school or first practice if there is a question.

Daniela Flores, 12, smiles as she receives an immunization at the Austin Independent School District and City of Austin Back-to-School Bash in 2011. Deborah Cannon/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

If you didn’t, you might still have time to do so. If you’re in the Austin Independent School District, you can go to the Back to School Bash on Saturday to get that done, plus get free backpacks and supplies. Bring your shot record with you. It’s happening 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 12 at Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. Buses leave from Guerrero Thompson and Summitt elementary schools; Bedichek, Martin, Mendez and Covington middle schools; and Lanier and Reagan high schools.

If you’re not in AISD or that time doesn’t work for you, consider going into a walk-in clinic if your regular doctor can’t take you. (It’s not the best, which is why next year you’ll remember to schedule a doctor’s visit in May or June.)

If your child is playing sports, ask your doctor or coach about doing a preconcussion screening. Some schools do it with their athletes, but you might need to get it done outside of school at a clinic that has the equipment to do that. The screening establishes a baseline so you can see the extent of the damage after a concussion happens. Don’t just think about your son playing football, either. We now know that girls in sports actually have more concussions than boys. 

Dr. David Kessler, an electrophysiologist who practices at Heart Hospital of Austin, confers with student athlete Walker Demedeiros during a free heart screening.

Now is also the time to get a heart screening for student athletes to makes sure it’s safe to play. If you have a student ages 14 to 18, sign up for a free one at Heart Hospital of Austin 8 a.m. to noon Aug. 19. The screening tests for genetic conditions such as Long QT syndrome and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. You also can learn CPR and how to use a defibrillator while you’re there. Schedule an appointment at 512-478-3627 or visit


Don’t forget to also do these things:

  • If you haven’t done the dentist visit or eye exam, try to get it done before school.
  • If your child has regular medications they need to take at school, get those ready, labeled and with a doctor’s note to give to the school nurse. Work out with the nurse how your child will receive those.
  • Fill any prescriptions that might be low to make the first weeks of school easier.
  • Update the first-aid kid and medicine cabinet. Get rid of expired medicine and stock up on fever reducers, cough medicine and cough drops, stomach remedies, allergy medicines, bandages and other first-aid materials.

RELATED: Got a scrape or cut? Austin company wants you to rub some Curoxen on it

Remember, when kids do get sick at home, it’s best to keep them at home if they have a fever or bodily fluid coming out of them. Last year, we offered you a guide to when to keep kids at home. Keep it handy throughout the year, when you’re just not sure.



Contest: Your daughter could be the face of Girls Will Be shirt


Is your child the face of girl power for Girls Will Be? The Austin-based gender stereotype-busting clothing line is hosting the Girls in Action contest. Send in a picture of your daughter in action. The winning picture will become the face of a new T-shirt, just like Zoe became the face of the “Be Mighty” shirt.

Here are the contest rules from Girls Will Be:

  1. To enter, send a photo of your girl in action, doing what she loves! Photos must be received by Aug. 8 via:
  1. Our team will select the winning photo and design a shirt featuring that silhouette
  2. Winner will receive three of the new silhouette shirts, for their girl and her friends!

Contest is open to all U.S. residents age 18 and above. Entrants must submit their own, original photograph and must be the legal guardian of the girl(s) in that photograph. Limit one entry per person. By entering, you give Girls Will Be permission to use your photograph and information across social media platforms, on our website, and in emails and marketing campaigns. See full rules and regulations.

Today on the I Love You So Much podcast, I talk about gender differences in clothing, based on the research that Girls Will Be creator Sharon Choksi did. We just did our back-to-school photo shoot and you’ll notice there’s no shorts for girls involved. Why? We couldn’t find ones in stores that would actually pass dress code. Instead we ended up with dresses and leggings or long shirts and leggings.



Girls Will Be offers shorts that are not so short. Girls Will Be




Back-to-school to-do list: Help your dog get ready for school year by creating a routine

This back to school thing is happening, but your children and you parents are not the only ones in the house that will experience big changes in the coming weeks.

What about Fido? Your dog can get very confused when all of the sudden you’re up before dawn and out of the house.

“Dogs are very aware of patterns,” says Lauren Hays, a certified animal behavioralist at Fidelio Dog Works. “Dogs love routine. They thrive on routine. It can become a problem if someone is gone when they are expecting them to be home.”

Animal Behaviorist Lauren Hays enjoys a playful moment with her 3-year-old Labrador retriever, Foxx. SUZANNE MAJORS DAVIS FOR WESTLAKE PICAYUNE

For dogs that have anxiety or fear-based aggression, a change in a routine can be particularly difficult. “Anything they can do to keep continuity in routine is going to help,” says Dr. Hunter Bowen of Firehouse Animal Health Center.

That might mean starting to slowly back up the time when the dog gets fed to more closely mimic the time when he will be fed during the school year. “If you’re going to have to change, make that change gradually,” Bowen says. “That’s a lot better, it’s a more gentle change and it’s one less change to deal with on the first day of school.”

Some dogs are social eaters, meaning that they won’t eat unless a human is with them. You might need to give them the time to eat while you are in the kitchen making school lunches or breakfast, rather than feeding the dog at the end as you’re rushing out the door.

Dr. Hunter Bowen works at Firehouse Animal Health Center.

For dogs that have anxiety or a lot of energy, getting some exercise before you leave for school is going to help. Give them a walk or take them for a run or play fetch with them in the morning.

Bowen also recommends that you involve older kids in this so you as the parent can get some alone time to get yourself ready in the morning.

“Even a short walk is better than no walk,” Bowen says. “A five minute walk is light years better than nothing.”

A walk to a dog “is like watching a movie with their nose,” Hays says. It’s keeping their brain active.

For families that know that they have one or two really long days filled with early morning and late afternoon practices or meetings, enrolling the dog in a dog day care, might be a good solution, Hays says, if you can’t meet their exercise needs.

Why is exercise so important? It’s a natural anxiety medicine. It releases those endorphins. It also helps Fido settle in for the day.

Some dogs — especially those that are herding breeds or working breeds — need to be given a job or something to do. That might mean that you given them a dog puzzle with kibble inside while you are gone or you teach them new tricks when you’re home.

When you do leave, don’t make a big deal about it. Just say goodbye and walk out the door; no prolonged goodbye that allows the dog to pick up on your anxiety as you leave.

If your dog isn’t adapting well to the change in routine, you will know if you see pools of drool in the crate, or he is panting, or you find that there are things in the house that has been destroyed. Also watch for the dog who looks exhausted.

What do normal dogs do while you’re gone? Most of the time they really are sleeping. Bowen filmed his dog after he was finding that his dog was destroying things in his apartment a few years ago. What he found was that the dog spent 90 percent of the day sleeping on his bed. He only spent 10 minutes destroying things.

It helped reaffirm for Bowen that his dog actually would be fine using a kennel, and when he slowly introduced it, his dog took to it very quickly. No more coming home to destroyed things.

If you decide to introduce a kennel, make sure it is big enough for the dog to stand up, sit up and turn around in. It should have some bedding and perhaps a water dish. Go with the smallest kennel that will allow those things to happen and not any bigger because dogs like to feel safe in a confined space.

While dogs might sleep all day, they really do need attention when you are home. “Remember, dogs are social animals,” Hays says. “They aren’t built to be solitary.”

They want you to hang out with them, rub on them, “keep them feeling part of the group,” she says.

It’s easy for the routine to become that the dog gets ignored when you’re at home, she says, because they can be easy to overlook. They often will let you know, though, she says. “Now you have a behavior problem.”

Back to school: Does your child’s teacher need a class pet? How to get one for free

I am the daughter of an elementary school teacher. My mom had in her classroom guinea pigs, a rabbit, chickens, an iguana, hermit crabs, a crayfish, butterflies, opossum babies, and I’m sure more animals that I’ve somehow forgotten. This meant that we also had these animals in our home on the weekends, summer, spring and winter breaks. It was fabulous.

My kids have had the gerbils that wouldn’t stop mating, hissing cockroaches, chickens, goats, ducks, turtles, snakes, therapy dogs, fish and snail aquariums, and more at their schools. It’s made for a rich, hands-on environment for my children.

Yang Villalpando, a bearded dragon, came to our home after the Villalpando children learned about caring for reptiles with school pets. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Getting a class pet can be an expensive proposition for teachers (who we all know spend a lot of their own money on school supplies for your children). Pets in the Classroom is a nonprofit organization that helps teachers put pets in their classroom by giving out $75 grants to buy a small animal or $125 grants for a reptile, amphibian or aquarium as well as $50 sustaining grants to maintain the current pet. To qualify, a teacher just has to go to and fill out the application. They have to teach in a public or private school classroom in grades Pre-K through ninth. Home school or an in-home day care doesn’t qualify.

They suggest that you wait to find out about classroom allergies before applying for a new-animal grant, so you know what kind of animal to ask for. You can only apply once per year.

Ava Villlalpando holds her chinchilla Muy, who was also inspired by school. Nicole Villalpando

Warning to parents, though: We are now the proud owners of a chinchilla, a bearded dragon, an aquarium with some of the snails from fourth-grade, as well as the cats and dog. Why? Every encounter with a new animal in school made my children want one for home. I have managed to not give in to the frequent requests for a snake, though.

And if you are a parent whose child made you get that pet guinea pig only to have that guinea pig be ignored by said child, consider donating the guinea pig to your local school. Call up the office and ask them to ask teachers if they would like it for their classroom. Your guinea pig will get loved from 25 eager new owners in that classroom.

Shop for back to school and be entertained at upcoming Domain Northside events

Hat Creek Burger Company’s Domain Northside location has a playground that might be fun stop after seeing a performance. Hat Creek Burger Company

Northside Kids at the Domain Northside, which already hosts a party playdate every first Wednesday of the month, is trying to make your back-to-school shopping a little more fun with family performances idea for ages 2-12. Catch ColdTowne Theater  10 a.m. to noon Saturday and Aug. 19. See Sol Scoundrel and the Bass 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 12. You have to sign a release to attend and parents must be present. Find more information at

Back to school: What should you do if your child is being bullied or is the bully?

In June, we wrote a story about a 12-year-old African American girl in Georgetown, who had been called an ape, referred to as a slave and had a fellow student make a whipping gesture towards her. The school report, referred to the incident as bullying, but her parent said none of the students involved had been disciplined.

It made us wonder, when bullying happens, what are the responsibilities of the student being bullied and her parent, the student who has been accused of being the bully and his parent, the school administration and the district? What exactly happens when a report is filed?

Christian Galvan, center left, and Isabel Soriano, center right, celebrate playing the drums with a high five as Nora Brock, far left, and Sadie Shipman, far right, look on during the opening performance by The Drum Cafe at the Anti-Defamation League “No Place for Hate” youth summit held at the Austin Convention Center in 2015. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2015

As we get ready for the new school year, we look at how to file a report and what to expect to happen once you’ve done so, as well as what to do if your child is accused of bullying?

What is bullying?

Peter Price

Bullying is “repeated unwanted behaviors or words toward a person,” says Peter Price, the director of social and emotional learning and multitier systems of support at Austin Independent School District and a former middle school principal. Those behaviors could be physical, social or emotional. It could be in-person or done through social media.

In fact this year, the Texas Legislature passed and Gov. Greg Abbot signed David’s Law, named after David Molak, a San Antonio high-schooler who killed himself after being cyberbullied. David’s Law, which will go into affect Sept. 1, makes cyberbullying, even if it happened away from school grounds, part of the school’s responsibility. It allows for anonymous reporting of incidents and requires schools to notify the parents of the kid who was bullied and the parents of the kid who has been accused of being a bully within three days.

David’s Law also allows an injunction against a social media account as well as a restraining order against the bully. Bullying can become a Class A misdemeanor instead of a Class B misdemeanor when it is done with the intent that the child commit suicide or harm herself or if a previous restraining order or injunction has been violated.

This law is important because of what teachers and school administrators are seeing in their schools. “What has changed is the differences in what it looks like because of technology,” says Kenisha Coburn, principal at Kealing Middle School. “There are a lot of verbal things and pictures that happen off campus when parents are sleeping … also things that used to be a one-time conflict have turned into a pattern. They keep coming up.”

Comments and photos get shared again and again, and they don’t go away, she says.

What happens if your child has been bullied?

Kenisha Coburn

“What I tell students and parents is you should expect to be treated with respect,” Coburn says. “If you feel uncomfortable or tell someone to stop and they don’t, report it.”

Tell a staff member at the school. Each school is different as far as who primarily investigates incidents, but all teachers and school administrators receive training on what to do when it gets reported to them. Price suggests that if it’s happening in a classroom, go to that teacher, but if it’s happening in multiple locations or outside of the classroom, it would make sense to go to an assistant principal or a counselor.

“It should be dealt with, every one of those times, whether it’s one time or 20 times,” Price says.

Sometimes students don’t want to report it because they don’t want to be seen going into the office to report it. Coburn says last year, she especially noticed parents telling her that their child didn’t want them to report what was happening.

Many schools now have an online form students can fill out. They also can email an administrator as well.

It’s not just the student who it’s happening to that should report it. “There’s no such thing as an innocent bystander,” Coburn says. “If you’re watching this kind of behavior, you’re part part of the problem.”

Coburn wants as much detail as possible. What happened? Where did it happen? Who witnessed it or was made aware of it later?

The general rule, Coburn says, is that once it’s reported, it should be acknowledged within 48 hours.

Jacki James speaks during an anti-hate rally at East View High School in Georgetown in 2014. James a teacher at the high school and mother of a son who committed suicide after being bullied has created a campaign called Kindness Matters. (Stephen Spillman for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

What should you do if you learn your child has been bullied?

Be calm. Emotions are running high. If you’re really good friends with the accused bully’s parents, you might want to reach out to them to have them talk to their child, but if you don’t really know the parents or you only slightly know them, do not make contact. Let the school handle it.

Do not talk to the bully. That’s not your job as the parent. Resist.

Make sure your child has filed a report and advise your child against retaliation. Do encourage your child to continue to file reports each time there is a new incident.

You also want to talk to your child about not becoming a bully toward the bully. “Sometimes it’s a one-way street,” Price says. “Typically, it’s a two-way street.”

Coburn also has seen one student come to her in March to report another student as the bully; then by May, the “bully” is coming to her to report the other student.

In 2012, then University of Texas football player Alex Okafor signs a “No Place For Hate” banner at Wieland Elementary in Pflugerville shortly before an anti-bullying program there. Okafor is a Pflugerville High School alumnus. Photo by Marcial Guajardo/Pflag

What should you do if you learn your child is the bully?

Try not to panic. It doesn’t mean your child is going to necessarily be kicked out of school or a have a police record. Typically, your child will meet with a counselor or principal or assistant principal to get her version of the incident.

Sometimes staff will meet with both students to do a mediation. It could just be a misunderstanding in which kids who have been friends for years, now went to far and didn’t realize it. The staff member will talk to them about making better choices and understanding the feelings that led to the bullying.

If it continues, it might mean that your child will have a “stay away” agreement — a formal document that tells them not to interact with the other student. Sometimes, students will get a schedule change or teacher change to help that, but usually this isn’t done because students will see one another in the hallways or at lunch or recess or before or after school. Instead schools want students to figure out how to co-exist without interacting.

You get to help with this by reinforcing the rules and not encouraging further incidents.

In severe cases, your student might be given a suspension or sent to an alternative school for a time. Sometimes the school police are brought in as well when it’s clear a law has been broken or could soon be broken. Things that get automatically reported are physical aggression that causes serious harm and sexting. Just because the school police get involved, doesn’t mean an arrest will follow, but it could.

Schools are changing how they treat a bully. Rather than just looking at punishment, they are trying to restore peace.

“One thing our district is doing that’s positive,” says Price, “is working to adopt more restorative practices. We help students see the harm they created and learn how to restore peace. Most kids don’t come to school with intent to cause trouble.”

Students in schools that feed into Akins High School are engaged in a pilot program that uses restorative rather than punitive practices.

If students are dealing with a trauma or another challenge, it might be manifesting itself as bullying, Price says. Rather than labeling them as “bad” students, “we’re helping these challenged students resolve their internal issues.”

Coburn says she often will look at what community resources might be available to help that student.

What happens if your child continues to be bullied?

You need to continue to report it to your child’s school administration. If it continues to happen and you don’t feel heard or that anything has been done, take it to the school district by calling the level administrator (the person in charge of the elementary schools or the middle schools or the high schools). That person will work with your school’s principal and assistant principal to find a better solution.

You do have the option to request a transfer to another school. It’s rare that parents opt for this, but they can. Just know, that you will be required to get your child to that new school. “It feels like we’re running away from the problem rather than resolving it,” Price said.

Price and Coburn do encourage parents and students to actually read and keep the code of conduct that their child gets that first week of school. Refer to it to understand your rights on bullying and any other school issue.