Anti-bullying program in Ascension Parish schools draws praise

Ascension Parish School Board members discussed recent implementation of an anti-bullying program piloted at Lowery Middle School in Donaldsonville and at Gonzales Middle School during a meeting Tuesday.

According to the Rachel’s Challenge website, the series of student empowerment programs are based on the writings and life of 17-year-old Rachel Scott, the first student killed in the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Board member Lorraine Wimberly said the parish’s pilot programs target sixth- through eighth-grade students and the initial meetings drew positive reactions.

“The students came up with some neat ideas about how to be kind to each other,” Wimberly said, referring to the Gonzales meeting. “Some even gave testimonials about being bullied in their lives.”

Board member Thomas “Moose” Pearce cited national statistics from the organization showing that after learning about the program, 78 percent more students said they would intervene in a bullying incident.

The organization’s website also states that in the past three years, it has received nearly 500 unsolicited emails from students contemplating suicide who said they reached out for help after hearing Scott’s story.

“A quote from Rachel Scott says, ‘People never know how far a little kindness can go,’ ” Pearce said. “This program can save a life.”

Wimberly said she would like to see the program in place at all schools in the system.

The board also voted to make a third advertised attempt to sell the former Lowery Middle School property, located on Martin Luther King Drive in Donaldsonville. The move comes after the board has twice approved resolutions this year to sell the campus, which has been designated as unused surplus property, through sealed bids.

The board previously failed to receive respective qualifying bids at the state mandated minimum asking prices of $580,000 — or 85 percent and of $560,000 — or 80 percent — of the property’s appraised value as of July 20, 2011.

According to Louisiana RS 41:892, if the board twice fails to sell property after no bids matched required minimums, the school board may sell the property to the highest bidder.