DONALDSONVILLE — Students in Ascension Parish are being encouraged to “step up and stop it” when they see their fellow students being bullied.

Ascension Parish school officials have implemented a new anti-bullying initiative intended to raise awareness across all of the campuses in the district. The program, which was started earlier this year, encourages students to talk to friends and report bullying to adults, and it also includes extensive training for teachers and staff members, including bus drivers and support personnel.

“We want everyone, especially our parents and students, to know that anyone can come and report bullying, and when they do, we have procedures in place to investigate and to stop it,” Superintendent Patrice Pujol said. “We believe bullying is about victimization and not conflict. Our intent is to explain what bullying is so students and adults recognize it early. We are committed to creating cultures and climates of safety that are essential to the prevention of violence in our schools.”

Pujol said the main message district officials are trying to get across to students is, “Together, we can stop bullying.”

Linda Lamendola, district coordinator of student services, said the district is enhancing its anti-bullying educational measures and intends to be a leader in anti-bullying education and prevention.

A new state law, which is named after Tesa Middlebrook, the 17-year-old Pointe Coupee Central High School student who committed suicide in March, goes into effect next month. The anti-bullying law directs school district to adopt and maintain an anti-bullying policy that defines bullying behavior, trains staff, notifies parents, reports, investigates, prevents and creates overall awareness of the issue.

Lamendola outlined the following strategies that the school distric t will put into place:

  • Focusing on the social environment of the school, noting that it is “uncool” to bully and “cool” to help students who are bullied. Parents will be told to reinforce the message that “telling is not tattling,” but rather, it is helping a friend.
  • Assessing bullying through surveys to learn the type of common bullying and identify “hot spots.”
  • Promoting staff and parental support through education and awareness.
  • Training school staff in bullying prevention and reporting.
  • Establishing and enforcing school expectations and rules.
  • Increasing adult supervision in “hot spots.”
  • Focusing class time on bullying prevention by incorporating it into the curriculum.

Pujol also said the district has partnered with Campus Crime Stoppers to give people three ways to make anonymous reports — calling (225) 344-7867, texting “cs225” plus a message to 274637 or visiting and clicking on the anonymous tip screen.