Schools, Sheriff’s Office partner to prevent cyber bullying

For a new program called SafetyNet

With October being National Bullying Prevention Month, St. Charles Parish Public Schools is highlighting its ongoing efforts to manage bullying.

The system has partnered with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office for a new program called SafetyNet.

Superintendent Felecia Gomez-Walker said the program extends the system’s efforts to cyber bullying, social networking and online predators.

Deputies Clint Patterson and Steve Fontenot are heading this new effort in the parish.

The deputies hold presentations outlining safety measures that parents can take to protect their children in social networking, as well as identifying cyberbullying and getting more information about online predators.

“There are areas that need to be addressed,” Gomez-Walker said. “We aggressively deal with them. Sometimes it shows in social media there is bullying and we actively address it.

But we prefer the students report it to an adult who is knowledgeable about what to do.”

But, she also emphasized that overall efforts to manage bullying span years in the system.

“We’ve worked on this for years and have taken a very aggressive approach to bullying,” Gomez-Walker said. “All schools have plans to addressing bullying.”

Jerry Smith, executive director of student services, said the foundation of this initiative is called the Olweus Bully Prevention Program, which was developed by Dr. Dan Olweus, a psychology professor from Norway. It is considered the foremost program of its kind in the world, and based on Olweus’ work after three Norwegian teenagers committed suicide in response to bullying by their peers.

Introduced in a parish school in 2008, Smith said it is now in six schools.

The program is comprehensive by generating buy-in with school administrators, as well as parents and students, she said.

Kade Rogers, the system’s administrator of Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness, said student surveys are done to identify potential bullies, as well as students who may be being bullied. The surveys further help identify where students feel safe or unsafe.

An outside auditor assesses them and outlines areas that need to be addressed, Rogers said.

All system employees who work with children are trained in bully prevention, he said.

Assistant Superintendent Tresa Webre added the system’s elementary schools also have “Positive Classroom” and “Developmental Designs,” which help students further understand their role in the community and how to respect each other.

What the students learn in these programs, they take with them to the upper grades, she said.

According to Gomez-Walker, their findings indicate these initiatives are working overall.

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