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School battles bullying with Rachel's Challenge

School battles bullying with Rachel's Challenge

WIDEFIELD, Colo. - The words of a student killed in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 are inspiring kindness.

Rachel Scott, 17, was the first student killed in the mass shooting.  She left behind a legacy of reaching out to those who were different or picked on.  Shortly before her death she wrote, "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."

Rachel's Challenge is a series of student-empowering programs and strategies that equip students to battle bullying by creating a positive environment.

Widefield School District 3 brought the program to the entire district last year.  Assistant Principal of Building Management and Discipline Shane Skalla told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that he's seen a big improvement in student behavior.

"We still have student conflict," Skalla said.  "When you're dealing with 1,275 teenagers on a daily basis, there's going to be conflict.  However, we have seen a major reduction in our student conflict data.  There has been a lot less student conflict as a result of the implementation of this program."

Jade McClain, a senior at Widefield High School, and a part of Widefield's Friends of Rachel (FOR) Club, said she's noticed a difference, too.

"I think it's definitely changed our school a lot," McClain said.

Even though not everyone in the school is in the FOR Club, McClain said the kindness has been contagious.

"I think everybody is starting to take part in it," she said.  "You'll walk down the halls and you'll hear somebody say, 'Nice shoes!' And there's not that many people sitting by themselves (at lunch) anymore."

Kristian Guerra, a junior at Widefield High, agreed that he's seen less bullying at school. When he does see it, he stops it.

"We all step in," Guerra said.  "It makes me feel actually really good showing them that they're not by themselves."

Bullying issues can be tough to deal with, Skalla said.  Widefield's goal, in conjunction with Rachel's Challenge, is to make school a safe haven for kids.

"We really want to empower students to be more involved in that process and create an environment where it's not just not tolerated by administration, it's not tolerated by students," he said.

Skalla said he would recommend Rachel's Challenge and FOR Clubs to any school trying to crack down on bullying.  For more information, visit RachelsChallenge.org.

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