St. Mary Parish schools embrace fight against bullying

CENTERVILLE, La. — St. Mary Parish has been ahead of the curve when it comes to implementation of the Tesa Middlebrook Anti-bullying Act.

The new law strengthens an older one by adding more rigid reporting mechanisms and was sparked by Middlebrook’s case. Relatives say the 17-year-old Pointe Coupee Central High School student who hanged herself at the school stadium in March did so because she was a victim of persistent bullying.

The law requires every employee who has contact with students to receive four hours of training. While the program is required to be implemented by January 2013, St. Mary Parish adopted the updated policy this summer in preparation for the current school year and has already conducted one of its four hours of training, said Diane Wiltz, at-risk interventionist for the school system.

The first hour of training taught employees how to identify bullying and to comply with the timeframe requirements in the updated law. Wiltz said a second hour of the training will be accomplished through an online training course on the district’s website.

The third hour may come from the Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning in Lafayette. Wiltz said she still is researching what will be offered by the center.

For the fourth hour, principals at every school are being asked to identify the specific types of bullying found on each campus. Training will be driven by the needs of each campus, Wiltz said.

All school districts will use a standard reporting form to document bullying.

The law defines bullying as a pattern of one or more of the following:

—Gestures, including obscene gestures and making faces.

—Written, electronic or verbal communications, including name-calling, threatening harm, taunting, malicious teasing or spreading rumors.

—Electronic communication including images transmitted by email, instant message, text message, blog or social networking website through the use of a telephone, mobile phone, pager, computer or other device.

—Physical acts such as hitting, kicking, pushing, tripping, choking, damaging personal property or unauthorized use of personal property.

—Repeatedly and purposefully shunning or excluding from activities.

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