HOUSTON – Feb. 11, 2019 – A Houston-area father who made headlines for befriending his son’s bully made a visit to Marshall Elementary School recently to encourage third through fifth-graders to put an end to bullying.
Aubrey Fontenot made both national and international news in October 2018 after using a different approach to stop his son from being bullied. Instead of confronting the bully, Fontenot decided to address the issue by befriending the young student and using it as a teaching lesson on self-respect and morals. Since then, Fontenot has made it a mission to go around to schools speaking to students of all ages about standing up to bullying with his presentation, Beyond Bullying.
“I’m trying to go from school to school to uplift kids, give them good energy and let them know that there is a lighter side to bullying,” said Fontenot. “That’s the same thing I taught my son and his bully.”
After speaking to his son’s school and the bully’s mother, he discovered that the student was actually dealing with personal struggles at home, causing him to lash out at school. According to his mother Felita Fontenot, he decided to try a different approach: kindness.
“Because of his vocal experience and knowing about what’s going on in the world today with bullying, he just felt compelled and passionate to share his story,” said Fontenot. “The response that we got from the media and social media exposure, I could have never guessed that the video would have been seen five million times.”
During the program, Marshall students defined what bullying meant to them, and exchanged different ideas on how to calmly confront bullying and stop the acts. Fontenot told students that when faced in a situation, the first step is to tell an adult, such as a teacher. Secondly, he suggested for students to be honest with themselves when telling others about the bullying. Lastly, he encouraged each student to find the confidence in standing up for themselves.
“As a school counselor, I always tell my kids that we come in all shapes, colors, sizes and experiences,” said Marshall school counselor Maria Larrasquita. “I always tell them that they are the generation that’s going to change the world and it starts here in school every day.”
Fontenot has continued to receive a lot of attention from numerous media outlets–something he says he never expected to take off. As for his son and the bully, both now have a budding friendship.
“They’re best friends,” Fontenot said. “They call each other, they hang out, and have been to Texans’ and Rockets’ games together.”
Fontenot and his mother are currently working on transforming his presentation into a non-profit organization and says his mission is to get people of all ages to think beyond bullying.
“I never thought that I would be doing any of this,” he said. “I really just thought it would be me, my son, his bully, and that’s it. Not the world and other kids.”