SAN ANTONIO – Hundreds of families from the Southwest Independent School District joined advocates and law enforcement and rallied Thursday to end bullying.
The event came one day after David's Law passed unanimously in the Texas Senate. The bill was named after Alamo Heights High School student David Molak, who took his own life after being cyberbullied.
Southwest students know many people dealing with the same pain. Their goal is to help their peers before it's too late.
Southwest High School senior Jay Vasquez is a mentor to his two young brothers, who he said he adores and watches over.
"They're my everything. One time, my little brother came home from school, and he was saying he was getting picked on one time at school," Vasquez said.
It broke his heart, so Vasquez wrapped his brother in support and gave his best advice.
"I was like, 'Just think positive and tell the teacher if anything. And see if they can fix it from there,'" Vasquez said.
Vasquez said things got better because both family and teachers got involved.
That situation was his inspiration in creating the student-run organization Anti-Harassment, Anti-Bullying, or AHA-B.
"The kids are the ones that we see it every day," Vasquez said.
AHA-B group member and fellow Southwest senior Mario Ramirez agrees, saying, "A lot of kids don't know how to talk to adults, so as soon as they see a kid they can talk to and joke around with, they can more openly say, this is what's happening. This is what's going on, and that's where we come in and really help."
The group is known for spinning signs in the community covered with positive messages. They hold rallies at elementary schools around the district and talk to children about bullying and host special speakers. They dedicate so much time to the cause because they know how substantial the problem is.
"I have seen a lot going through school and everything, and I've actually stopped bullies. I know it can affect people in a big way and hurt them," Ramirez said.
The group listened at the district's anti-bullying rally as David Molak's father, Matt Molak, spoke about his son's suicide.
"A lot of times in school, people will be acting different. You ask them what's wrong. They don't want to tell you, but behind closed doors, they're crying and things like that. That's what we're trying to stop," Ramirez said.
Every day, the group replaces bullying with kindness.
"I'm always waiting for the chance for someone to tell me what's really going on. I know that the message is good and that we're able to stop it, and that really feels like it's a part of something bigger than us," Ramirez said.
The anti-bullying group also coordinates with district staff, so if there is a bullying situation, it's able to alert the system quickly.
Matt Molak called the district a shining example of what they're trying to accomplish with David's Law: stricter punishments and more action from schools.
The bill is expected to go before the state House for a vote next week.
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