Enumclaw isn’t afraid of Rachel’s Challenge. In fact, not only the schools but the entire community will be taking on the anti-bullying message in the next few months.
"I’ve never been a part of something that’s caught on like wildfire like this,” Enumclaw schools Superintendent Mike Nelson said recently. “They’ve done a lot of rallies, and this has caught them off-guard.”
Nelson was referring to organizers of Rachel’s Challenge. Rachel’s dad, Darrell Scott, started the group about 12 years ago after the Columbine school shootings, in which his daughter was the first victim. The focus of the group is violence prevention, and is has had success by teaching kindness and compassion strategies. Most of their work is with school districts.
The Washington state legislature in 2010 mandated that schools look into reducing bullying. Enumclaw’s district looked into using Rachel’s Challenge in grades six through 12. For secondary schools, the focus is on student-led prevention, with assemblies, leadership and student next steps.
But when local elementary schools heard about the effort, Nelson said they told him, “We want that now.”
With the younger students, the focus is more on teacher-led practices that will build “long-lasting” processes, Nelson said.
Once various presentations about the movement were given to civic groups, the community said, “We want in,” Nelson said.
So, on Sept. 1, not only will school staff meet on Rachel’s Challenge, there will be a summit that night with the community invited so partnerships can be expanded and a foundation built to make the movement a success. A group of various stakeholders will have just its second meeting Thursday. Rachel’s Challenge will end in six months with a rally in March that Nelson hopes even Scott, himself, will attend. But of course the message of the movement, hopefully, will carry on forever.
“I think any school could use this,” said Lauren Cary, the senior student representative on the Enumclaw School Board.
Tim Nickson, a school board member, said an event of this magnitude “will sink in with a lot of kids.”
The event will be visible in the community. Posters will appear on storefronts. Civic groups will challenge each other. Students and people will be asked to fill out a piece of paper whenever they do or see something kind being done in the community. Monetary grants have been applied for and even received to help the effort along.
"It’s nice to see community leaders and the schools work together for the kids,” said Chris VanHoof, school board president. “Every kid in the district can get something out of Rachel’s Challenge.”