PENDLETON - NFL star Drew Bledsoe has a message for Sunridge Middle School students: Bullying is not cool and it's harmful to all. Stop it.

This is the message Sunridge students heard Wednesday in a presentation about how to control bullying and harassment at school by Mark Thompson, a bullying and harassment specialist contracted by the Umatilla-Morrow Education Service District. Thompson told the students that their progress against these forms of intimidation would be tracked all year.

"If your principal, your vice principal, your teachers think you have done a good job against bullying and harassment by the end of the year, Drew will give the school an autographed football, worth $500," Thompson told the students amid cheers and applause.

Thompson said Bledsoe, a 1990 graduate of Walla Walla High School who now plays for the Buffalo Bills, is encouraging all students to be aware of bullying and to help make it stop. Bledsoe donated a signed poster to the school as a reminder that bullying is "not cool."

Principal Susan DeMarsh reminded students of the two most important rules at Sunridge: Be safe and be a learner.

"When you have a safe place to be a learner, learning really happens," DeMarsh said. "It's important we keep this a safe place to be."

DeMarsh said Thompson's presentation is helping the school get off to a "positive beginning" to the bullying and harassment program the school implements each year.

This year's program, however, has more formalized instruction on the topic by teachers. Thompson will have the opportunity to return to the school throughout the year and make presentations to individual classes.

In addition to the instruction in classes, Sunridge has other opportunities to combat bullying and harassment. One unique item DeMarsh created last year is the "White Book," a binder where teachers and staff keep track of disciplinary problems and warnings against students who are teasing or harassing other students.

"That way we can look at the book and see if any patterns are developing with any students," DeMarsh said.

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