GONZALES, La. (WAFB) - The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office and Ascension Public Schools launched a collaborative initiative to address acts of unkindness and conflict in schools.
The Don’t Stand By; Stand Up! campaign focuses on the role of the bystander during acts of conflict and bullying. The campaign’s goal is to reach the 23,000 students attending Ascension Public Schools and empower them to stand up for their classmates.
“This is just one component of several activities that take place year-round at our schools," Ascension Public Schools Superintendent David Alexander said. "Teachers and staff are trained in conflict resolution and de-escalation. With this campaign, we hope to work with our law enforcement partners to engage students as part of the solution.”
Alexander says there wasn’t one specific event or outcry from parents that sparked the new campaign.
“I think whenever your child is involved in anything, there’s an outcry, right? So certainly anyone that feels like their child’s been a victim to unkind acts, you do respond in a way to try and find solutions.”
Some parents, however, have chosen to home school their children rather than face any bullying.
"When my wife first had our first daughter, she’d seen, she was a teacher actually, she’d seen bullying and different things at school going on and she felt that she could do a better job,” said parent, Quincy Jackson.
Before the creation of the campaign, a committee of employees from both the Sheriff’s Office and Ascension Public Schools conducted student focus groups at the primary, middle, and high school levels. The purpose of the groups was to evaluate student knowledge of bullying and how best to address it.
“At the high school level, our focus is on training and creating action plans that create the kind of climate that fosters a sense of community and belonging,” Director of Secondary Schools Mia Edwards said.
In the spring, student leaders and adult advisers received diversity and leadership training through learning activities that taught students about how differences can sometimes bring about bullying.
Sheriff Bobby Webre points out that not all unkindness should be classified as bullying though.
“It’s also important to note and realize that not every conflict is bullying,” he said. “Not every argument is bullying and understanding the difference between that and just how to be kind to people.”
The centerpiece of the campaign was a video written by the 2019 Ascension Parish Student of the Year Reace Dedon and filmed in spring of 2019.
“From the perspective of a student in the Ascension Parish School System, this campaign has the power to shape how children view one another. Similarly, it can change attitudes towards education, as feeling accepted and valued can drastically change one’s appreciation for learning within the classroom. Being kind is simple, and it is achievable,” Dutchtown High School Senior Courtney Hughes said.