Authored by Sen. Rick Ward III (D-Maringouin), Senate Bill 709 was inspired by the March suicide of Tesa Middlebrook, a 17-year-old student who attended Pointe Coupee Central High School.
Relatives of Middlebrook have said they think school bullying over a long period of time led to her suicide.
The bill is geared at strengthening Louisiana’s current anti-bullying law.
The more than 18-page bill defines bullying as including obscene gestures; written, electronic or verbal communications and physical acts that put the student in fear of harm or that create an intimidating or threatening school environment that interferes with student performance or school operations.
"It's definitely here, but nothing major," said Jasmine Littles, 17, a ZHS senior involved with Student Government. "It exists among a small, cliquish group of people, but it does exist. They talk about other students."
The entire Zachary High student body watched a video on Sept. 19 and heard from Sen. Ward on the topic of bullying.
The presentation was made possible by Dean of Students Therese Pelichet and Littles, who is involved with the Louisiana Youth Advisory Council, and in association with Louisiana Public Broadcasting. The video featured the parents of two La. teens and talked about a third teen, Middlebrook.
In the video, the parents of a Bossier City teen and a Lake Charles teen spoke about the suicides of their daughters.
Leonard Pauley, whose daughter Hannah took her life by a self-inflicted gunshot, was scheduled to speak at the ZHS assembly but was unable to attend.
"Hannah was the victim of a lot of verbal bullying," Pauley said in the video. "We even switched schools, but the bullying followed her. It's important to understand what motivates a bully."
Pauley started the Hannah Pauley Foundation and hopes to offer kids counseling so that further tragedies can be avoided.
Danielle Cox, of Bossier City, was the victim of one boy's 100 plus text messages urging Cox to 'kill herself.'
"You never know what a person is going through or that what you might say pushes them over the edge," Ward told the Zachary students. "This is about respect."
Ward related to the students by saying social media can play a role in bullying. "Social media can be used in positive ways but also in negative ways. Whenever you're talking to someone you know, what are you saying (or posting indirectly) that could be hurtful?" Ward asked. "Be mindful, that's all I'm asking."
ZHS Principal Wes Watts also addressed the students. "Do not give someone the power to make you happy, glad, sad or mad. I'd never give someone that much power over me," Watts said. "Just because someone says something about you, doesn't make it true. If we refuse to let someone bother us, bullying loses its power, and it goes away. Treat others as you would have them treat you, that's the Bronco way."
The Tesa Middlebrook Anti-Bullying Act (Act 861) requires superintendents and teachers to keep disciplinary records of those who bully and authorizes a teacher to take disciplinary action to correct a student who engages in bullying.