Columbine tragedy inspires anti-bullying program

Published 11:16 am Tuesday, January 8, 2013

ROME TOWNSHIP — Rachel liked cheeseburgers, hot wings and blue butterflies. Her middle name was Joy and she wanted to make a difference in the world. But as she stared at the gun a classmate was holding on her, the 17-year-old probably thought that reaching that goal would never happen.

For awhile Rachel’s major distinction was one no parent would want for his child. Rachel Scott was the first victim of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, where 12 students and a teacher were murdered and 21 were injured.

As Rachel’s father sought to link his daughter’s memory with something bigger than the tragedy, he turned to writings in her diaries about wanting people to treat each other with more kindness. Inspired by that he created Rachel’s Challenge, whose mission is to encourage others to create a “permanent positive culture change” where they live and work.

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When Fairland Middle School principal, Aaron Lewis, and assistant principal, Evelyn Capper, wanted to present an anti-bullying program for their students, they were directed to Rachel’s Challenge.

“We started doing some research and a lot of the programs we had never heard of,” Capper said.

So they sought guidance from the Ohio Middle School Association who told them about Rachel’s Challenge.

“It is a very expensive but a powerful program,” Capper said they were told.

The educators agreed and want to bring it to the Fairland district. What they need now are corporate and community sponsors to cover the $5,000 cost.

“(Bullying) is a concern,” Capper said. “It is a major community concern. It has been around since I was in school. Because of Columbine and these horrible situations we have seen in the past 15 years, it is obviously more prevalent and has brought it to the forefront.”

The Fairland principals want to present multiple programs for their students and parents: separate ones for middle school and high school students, followed by a third for school leaders.

“Take 50 students who could be leaders and offer them more intensive guidance and have parents involved,” Capper said “Bullying is not a problem at Fairland, or Chesapeake or Ironton. It is a community problem.”

The last seminar would be in the evening geared for parents. The administrators would also be receptive to teaming up with other school districts to present the programs.

Right now the district wants to have the seminars on Feb. 21, depending on the financial support for the project they receive from the community.

“We all think, ‘what can we do,” Capper said. “We don’t want to make the headlines because of that. No one ever thought it would happen in those communities. We want to do what we can. If we just get back to the basics and treat people with kindness, I think that will help.”