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Students pledge nonviolence

May 23, 2000|By TARA REILLY

Thousands of Washington County students have taken a stand against violence by signing I Will Pledge cards and posting them in the Valley Mall in Hagerstown.

The campaign, promoted by the Washington County Association of Student Councils, was so popular that association members lost count of how many students made the pledge.

"We just had boxes and boxes of cards," Tyler Patton, 17, a junior at South Hagerstown High School said. "Over 50 percent of the students in the county signed the cards. And that's a conservative number."

Patton, along with Jenny Aiken, a junior at North Hagerstown High School, strung 13 twin and king-sized bedsheets filled with multi-colored 3-by-5-inch pledge cards along a wall across from Payless ShoeSource.

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The cards contain six "I Will" statements designed to promote acts of kindness and nonviolence in schools.

By taking the pledge, students promise to be a part of the solution, to eliminate taunting from their behavior, to do their part to make the community a safe place by being more sensitive to others, and to avoid letting their words or actions hurt others.

"And even if others won't become part of the solution, I will," the students pledge.

Students who signed the cards were issued pocket-sized copies of the pledge to carry with them.

All of Washington County's high schools, middle schools and several elementary schools took part in the campaign.

"It was the elementary schools that really surprised me," said Aiken, who is president of the Washington County Association of Student Councils.

Patton said the student response was overwhelming.

"People at my school really took it seriously," Patton said.

The cards also caught the attention of passers-by as Patton and Aiken hung the panels. Several people stopped to read the cards and then approached the students to say they supported the cause.

"It's good that these kids would care that much about themselves and the community," Elaine Beck, of Hagerstown, said.

Ed Koogle, supervisor of social studies and student council advisor, said the pledge was well-received among teachers.

The campaign is part of a statewide initiative promoting nonviolence in schools. Washington County students came up with the pledge drive to help get the message across to the community and to prevent acts of violence similar to the Columbine High School shooting spree.

"They wanted to make a statement that Washington County wasn't going to have another Columbine if they could help it," Koogle said.

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