Most of us remember where we were on the day of the Columbine massacre—almost two decades ago. How Do We Stop Bullying and Violence in Schools? Like so many of the challenges within K-12 education, it is a complex subject.
The Independence Institute recently hosted a presentation by two organizations that are making a difference. Jennie Jarratt, project manager of The Heartland’s Institute’s Center for Transforming Education and Rob Unger, CEO of Rachel’s Challenge provided us with statistics, policy recommendations, and highlights of a prevention program that is saving lives.
Rachel’s Challenge is named after Rachel Joy Scott, a Columbine student, who was the first person killed on that tragic day on April 20, 1999. While alive, Rachael touched many lives with her kindness and compassion. Rachel wrote in one of her six diaries, “Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer. I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”
According to the organization’s website, 160,000 students skip school every day out of fear of being bullied. Rachel’s Challenge reaches out to students through group presentations, and a variety of other programs, that intend to strengthen student-to-student, and student-to-teacher connections. Rachel’s story has touched over 24 million people. Every year they receive an average of 150 emails, letters, and Facebook entries from students who were planning to commit suicide but changed their mind after experiencing Rachel’s Challenge.
The Heartland Institute has published a paper about school safety and Child Safety Accounts. The accounts are a type of Education Savings Accounts or commonly referred to as an ESA. This year, Florida passed the Hope Scholarship to provide financial assistance and school choice options for students who are bullied or victims of violence. It works differently than an ESA, and the revenue stream is unique.
We were glad to learn during the presentation that the bullying statistics show that Colorado has among the lowest bullying rates, and must be doing something right. The fact that Colorado has a robust public school open enrollment system may be part of the reason. Also, according to the Colorado Department of Education, many schools are implementing bullying prevention programs.
Educational options, and promoting student and teacher connections, are certainly key to help stop bullying for both the victim and bully. We thank Heartland and Rachel’s Challenge for their work and commitment to stop bullying and school violence.