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Berkeley Springs High tweaks anti-bullying program in second year

September 25, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Rachel's Challenge, the anti-bullying program designed to help reduce school violence, is in its second year at Berkeley Springs High School.

Assistant Principal Lance Fox said the program was a success last year but it needed some tweaking to fit the high school's needs.

Fox said last year the large groups were not manageable and not every group was motivated the same way. This year, smaller groups have committee members who meet once a week.

Fox said the program has been in place for about two weeks. About 200 students participate in the character-building program.

"We tweaked the Rachel's Challenge framework," Fox said.

Student groups meet every day and character building is led by a teacher for 30 minutes in athletics, a club or an organization.

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Once every two weeks, all of the organizations meet, which allows students with more than one membership to participate.

Rachel's Challenge is made up of chain reaction group leaders. It has 18 members in its organization and is led by art teacher Lisa Wilder.

The group leaders are well-rounded students from different backgrounds, Fox said.

They are leading the program by giving new students a tour of the school and asking the new students to sit with them.

More Acts of Kindness groups are being formed, he said, like ones that focus on the cafeteria workers by writing thank-you notes and giving oven mitts to them.

A group will be formed to support a family in need during the holidays, and one to support military members by sending packages and by supporting military families during the holidays, he said.

Fox said an extension of Rachel's Challenge character building has resulted in a group of 15 students mentoring students at Widmyer Elementary School, which is within walking distance of the high school.

He said he works closely with Megan Hauser, the community educator of the Morgan County Partnership.

"Megan found the Acts of Kindness Web site that gave us great ideas," he said.

"Kids are talking about (Rachel's Challenge) and want to get started again," Hauser said.

One of the projects in the works by the leaders is the placing of every student's name on a wall.

"Everyone is of equal importance," Fox said, noting that faculty and staff will be included.

Fox said the school still has incidents of bullying, but the numbers are on the decline and fights are few.

"A lot of kids stepped up last year, and they're back this year," he said.

The program "is a process and it will slowly build," Fox said.

Rachel Scott was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999. Eleven other students and one teacher died in the Littleton, Colo., shootings.

Scott was known for her acts of kindness and compassion toward others. She kept diaries, which were found after her death, and her writing inspired the program's inception.

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