Cindy KlehSpecial to the Sky-Hi News

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April 23, 2013
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West Grand takes on Rachel's Challenge

KREMMLING- It's sometimes hard enough getting through a day of school, much less without being bullied, teased or harassed by other students.Each day, an estimated 160,000 U.S. students stay home because they fear being bullied. But even more frightening are the students who become so angry and depressed over the abuse, they ponder suicide or plot a violent revenge.In response to horror over a mass shooting in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last December, and to create a safer learning environment in the schools of the West Grand School District, an ad hoc citizen's committee - Forward Motion - was created on Jan. 17.The committee, comprised of seven concerned citizens, met eight more times over the next seven weeks to devise an action plan to address school violence by prompting students and citizens to share responsibility for student safety with school board members and law enforcement. The group concluded prevention of school violence is a community concern requiring a community response, and that trust and confidence between parents, children, their school and their community most effectively fosters a safe learning environment.The culmination of the Forward Motion Committee's efforts was a meeting at West Grand High School of nearly 500 parents on March 6 that included a presentation on Rachel's Challenge and a sharing of ideas on how to prevent bullying and violence in schools.Rachel Scott was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999. After the shooting, Rachel's parents, Darrell and Sandy Scott, found hopeful writings and drawings in Rachel's room that have since inspired more than 18 million people to analyze their own words and actions and be kinder to each other. Through Rachel's Challenge - a series of student-empowering programs that help combat bullying by creating a culture of kindness and compassion - they are able to bring her message to an additional 2 million people each year.Most of the parents at the West Grand meeting agreed the bulk of these problems originate at home, and that schools can only go so far in urging parents to get more involved in their kids' lives. Rachel's Challenge gave promise to solution outside of rules, weapons and supervision.West Grand Superintendent Terry Vanderpan has since arranged to bring Rachel's Challenge to West Grand with the help of grant money earmarked for violence prevention in schools. Through this program, he hopes to bring students and parents onboard in the fight against school violence."Things that happen at home are out of our control most of the time," Vanderpan said, "so we try to educate parents and kids to break the chain of violence and lead by example. We want to teach respect and change the atmosphere of our schools to anti-bullying."With the help of $3,900 contributed by the Grand County Commissioners and other funds from county groups and businesses, Vanderpan has booked Rachel's Challenge to come back to Kremmling on Tuesday, April 23.The West Grand district is inviting East Grand and North Park school districts to participate as well. A select group of students from those districts will be bussed to West Grand High School to engage in either a morning program geared to elementary-school aged students or an afternoon program for grades 6 through 12. All of West Grand's student body will attend.A one-hour workshop, including a select group of 120 students from East Grand, West Grand and North Park, is slated to follow. Those participating will be those who have demonstrated leadership skills in school. It is expected that each of these students will spread the philosophy of Rachel's Challenge and start the chain reaction of kindness and compassion. At 6:30 that evening, there will be another one-hour presentation at West Grand High School, prepared especially for parents and students to increase community awareness of the power of kindness and compassion - to break the chain of violence at home.Meanwhile, to increase school security, Vanderpan has worked to address poor cell service at West Grand schools and has devised plans to be the first district in the state to have 911 alert buttons for staff members. The purchase of radios for school busses to improve communication with the school administration office, additional lockdown drills, a more visible police presence and improved door locks and video surveillance have also contributed to better control of who has access to school property.But beefed-up security can only go so far, Vanderpan said, and that's where strong emotional and social education can help bridge the gap by giving students the knowledge and power to protect themselves and their friends in the fight against bullying and prejudice.


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The Sky-Hi News Updated Apr 25, 2013 10:21AM Published Apr 23, 2013 08:20PM Copyright 2013 The Sky-Hi News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.