SPRING HILL — Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Swartz, Fox Chapel Middle School's resource officer, recently went down the road to Deltona Elementary School, where he made an anti-bullying presentation.
He was at Deltona at that school's request — and with a message for the young students.
"This is where it's actually starting," he said. "We're trying to get out to the elementary schools. Sometimes in the third and fourth grades, there is name calling."
Swartz combined cartoon film clips, questions and a discussion in his presentation to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in the Deltona cafeteria. Bullying was defined so that the students would recognize both the physical and verbal types.
They discussed tips about handling various situations depicted in the films. Swartz said bullies do what they do to get a reaction.
"Once you learn not to do that," he told the children, "the bullying is going to stop."
He told them to report bullying.
"You need to speak up. It's not tattling. It's not being a rat," he said.
Swartz also cautioned the students about their own behavior if they witness bullying.
"If you do nothing or laugh," he said, "you become part of the problem."
He asked how many of the students had seen bullying on a school bus. About half of those in the room raised a hand.
"Sometimes it's really hard to do the right thing," he said.
Third-grade teacher Lore Adesso coordinated the program.
"We wanted to make sure we start with (the young students)," she said. "We're really trying to teach them so we avoid the bullying treatment in school. They see it more as physical."
Fifth-grader Leah Bamber-Fontanez, 10, said she had been verbally bullied earlier when she lived in another county.
"They called me fat and things like that," she said.
Third-grader Malourey Guarino, 8, had also experienced bullying. She was on a school bus when her brother's friend started hitting her for not wanting to continue playing a game. She told the bus driver, who said she would write up the boy.
"I don't even know if she wrote him up," Malourey said.
Fourth-grader Stacy Long, 10, had a problem similar to Leah's a couple of years ago.
"People kept calling me names," she said. "I told my parents."
After that, the name-calling ended.
Leah took copious notes during Swartz's presentation.
"All of it is in here," she said, pointing to her notebook. "Three pages full."
She took down the information because she hopes to start an anti-bullying club at school.
She has some ideas about what causes kids to bully others.
"I really don't know why bullies bully people. Really, they have something going on in their lives," she said. "It might be their parents hurting their feelings. But it has to be something with their families or friends that's making them bully."