Jeff Davis School Board to launch Truth, Facts & Lies program

JENNINGS — The Jeff Davis Parish School Board will launch a program this fall to get teens talking about hot-button issues they face daily.

The School Board, along with the Jeff Davis Parish District Attorney’s Office, B Curriculum LLC, and the Southwest Louisiana Youth Foundation, are helping to implement the Truth, Facts & Lies program at Jennings, Welsh and Lake Arthur high schools.

The program will target selected students in grades 9-11 with hopes to expand the program in the future.

The seven-session program focuses on bullying and helping students understand the difference between bullying and other forms of mistreatment; controlling their digital footprint and social media safety; pornography and how the teenage brain works; Louisiana laws and consequences regarding relationships, consent and sexting; dating and relationship abuse; and online solicitation and human trafficking.

“Our goal is to give the students the facts and information they need so that they can go out and make their own decisions when confronted with these issues,” said Kristen Couch Cassidy, a local counselor who helped develop the program with her mother and sister.

“We want them to be able to make the appropriate decisions and set goals they can reach because they know the truth and have the facts they need. A lot of information they have is not the truth.”

Truth, Facts & Lies is now implemented in all public high schools in Calcasieu Parish, as well as St. Louis Catholic High School, and will expand to Jeff Davis Parish this fall.

“So far what I have seen in other districts that I have used the program they felt it was very successful,” School Superintendent Kirk Credeur said. “I am excited that we are going to implement it here.”

Schools are asked to select a diverse group of 20-30 students to participate in the program. Students must have a signed consent form from their parents to participate.

Those students will be encouraged to discuss the issues with peers who are unable to attend the program. The group will also hold an Awareness Day to share their knowledge with others.

Students completing the program will have an opportunity to serve on a teen advisory board to help develop similar programs for middle school students.

The program has received the blessing of District Attorney Michael Cassidy, who has committed $1,800 to fund the pilot initiative. The School Board will use $4,200 in Title IV money to help fund the program.

“I was aware they had the program in Calcasieu Parish and have always been interested in sponsoring a program to follow up on the DARE program for older students,” Michael Cassidy said. “I’m excited it is here.”

He said youths today are being exposed to adverse situations because of new technology, drugs, and an increase of immorality and violence on television, games, music and movies.

“My goal is this program will empower them with the knowledge and information they need to make good decisions, avoid the consequences of poor decisions, and hopefully accomplish their goals and become successful adults,” he said.

Trained volunteers and a facilitator will visit the schools monthly to present the lessons and engage students in group discussions so that students can make smart, informed decisions on social issues, Kristen Couch Cassidy said.

The adult volunteers undergo extensive training on mandatory reporting, abuse, content and delivery methods. Volunteers also undergo background checks.

The information is presented to the teens in way that they will understand, she said.

“We present the facts, answer questions and give them scenarios,” she said. “It’s up to them to decide what to do and what they think will or will not work.”

Parents are also invited to attend Parent Night to see the program firsthand and will receive a newsletter.

Online: www.truthfactslies.org.

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