Forsyth N.C. implements “Rachel’s Challenge” anti-bullying

School districts in the United States are implementing a very powerful anti-bullying program called “Rachel’s Challenge” — a tribute to Rachel Scott, the first student shot in the Columbine disaster. Some schools in Forsyth, North Carolina, for example, have taken on this challenge. As Fox news is reporting:

“The program, which left students speechless and emotional Wednesday at Glenn High School, mixes Rachel’s words and personal photos with words written by Ann Frank and Martin Luther King. The basic message is simple: be kind and look for the best in people. The challenge, however, is to start chain reactions of kindness with others.”

While some students will dismiss this type of program as too emotional or for sissies, it is a very positive way to get individuals to look at a whole person — be it the bullies or the victims. Questions that could stimulate debate might be:

  • Why is someone bullying other students they see as weak?
  • What is behind their bullying?
  • Is their bullying a reaction to something going on in their own lives?
  • Are bullies insecure or do they have a mental illness or undiagnosed disability?

In other words, why do some young people find it necessary to belittle and hurt others? Whatever is the case, as a society, we have to get to the bottom of those reasons because far too many victims of bullying are dying to escape its clutches (e.g., Ottawa’s Jamie Hubley).

Yes, there have always been bullies and there always will be to some extent.  Now, however, there is social media and the permanence of things written and posted on the Internet. Rachel’s challenge is, therefore, applicable to all of us and which in many ways expands on “random acts of kindness” principles.

Marywood Palm Valley School “anti-bullying” campaign Oct. 17-21

I always like to find positive anti-bullying news. Marywood Palm Valley School is a private school in California that is starting a preventative anti-bullying campaign today which will run through until Friday (October 17-21, 2011).  As reported by Editor Jessica E. Davis in Palm Desert Patch, there are eight steps in the Marywood program.

  1. “Be an example of respectful, courteous language and behavior to your classmates and schoolmates
  2. Encourage others around you to use courteous language and behavior.  Speak up for respectful behavior at all times.
  3. Walk with awareness and confidence; be assertive and move away from people who might cause trouble.
  4. Avoid situations where you may be drawn into conflict or trouble.  This is called “target denial” where YOU choose to move away from potentially trouble-causing situations or groups.
  5. If you feel any degree of threat from another student, set a boundary and say, “STOP,” in a polite, but firm voice.  Your confidence can quickly diffuse a potentially aggressive act by another.
  6. Name-calling and put-downs are forms of bullying.  Do not engage in these actions as a form of retaliation. This makes the problem bigger, not better.  Walk away and report the name-calling to an adult who can help you deal with the circumstances.
  7. Be persistent in getting help from the adults at school.  Report any situation where you do not feel safe and need support or intervention.  Your teachers, administrators, and school staff are here to provide a safe, healthy environment in which you can learn and grow socially and emotionally, as well as intellectually.
  8. Remember that the best defense is a good offense.  Be confident, assertive, and respectful at all times.  You are the one who determines how others will treat you.”

Daniel Sebben another victim of bullying

Michele Mandel writes in today’s Sunday Sun about another student, Daniel Sebben, who has been bullied for years. Now eighteen and a student in the York Region District School Board, he is finishing high school in a program which has him working four days a week outside of the classroom.

But, like Lindsay Hyde, who attends a high school in the Peel Board of Education (my archive is here), apart from keeping him out of the school as much as possible, the York Region board was unable to do anything to protect him from his harassers — even when their abuse was witnessed by teachers.  Meaning, that once again, it is the victim who has to make all the accommodations — including, in Daniel’s case, paying for private counselling sessions.

It boggles the mind. We hear so much about zero tolerance policies and anti-bullying programs. Yet, apart from the “wear pink” approach — which was initiated by students on behalf of other students — it seems the authorities can do nothing because, they say, their “hands are tied.”

Yet, in Ontario, with the “zero tolerance policy” essentially replaced last year by Bill 212 (Progressive Discipline and School Safety Act),  some changes are beginning to occur — although still focusing more on the perpetrators than on the victims. Bill 212, for example, was “designed to promote a more progressive and constructive approach to student discipline.”

However, some changes are happening. Specifically, in the Toronto District School Board, the additional funding has allowed them to increase the number of Alternative Safe School Programs from 18 to 33 for “suspended, expelled and other at-risk secondary and elementary students.”

But, what about the victims? As Daniel says: “There’s something in place for the aggressor but absolutely nothing for us. Why do we have to put out the money  [for counselling] to get help?”

Good question. Maybe all this publicity will bring about some positive change because, if all the school boards do is accommodate bullies, what is society going to be like when those same bullies are unrestrained? It is as though the authorities don’t seem to see that there might just be a connection between bullying in elementary and secondary school (with few consequences) and later domestic and societal violence.

Sept. 11th is “Wear Pink” anti-bullying day

September 11th is not just a remembrance of what happened in the U.S. in 2001. While it is certainly that, it is also “Anti-bullying Pink Day” thanks to two young men — David Shepherd and Travis Price and their fellow students — at Central Kings Rural High School in Nova Scotia.

Here is their own story, which is an amazing story, and here is their own website called “Force in Pink.”

Already given a citation by the Canadian Red Cross, I would like to offer my congratulations to Shepherd and Price for starting it all and to all those students then and now who wear pink in support of this anti-bullying campaign.