In an ongoing effort to provide a safe and secure learning environment for students, the Colonial School District (CSD) is participating in Rachel's Challenge a nationwide, non-profit program with the mission of "making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect."
While the CSD has been recognized for its comprehensive climate improvement efforts over the past several decades, this is the first outside program to include students in grades K-12, staff, parents and community members.
"Last spring, several members of our administrative team attended a presentation detailing the goals and objectives of Rachel's Challenge," explained Superintendent Dr. Michael Christian. "We believe the program will enhance our educational programs and help support students."
Dr. Christian added that Rachel's Challenge has developmentally and age-appropriate presentations for all grade levels. For example, the elementary presentation is energetic and interactive and challenges students to reach out with deliberate acts of kindness. Elementary students will not hear or see footage of the Columbine tragedy. At the secondary level, the program features "the inspiring story of Rachel Scott...conveyed through stories from her life and writings."
Representatives from Rachel's Challenge will make several presentations in Colonial schools during the week of October 21. There will also be programs for parents and community members at 7 p.m. in Colonial Elementary School on Wednesday, October 23 and Thursday, October 24.
The evening programs will highlight the profound positive impact we have on those around us. It demonstrates the power of deliberately reaching out to others to start what Rachel called a chain reaction of kindness and compassion. The evening programs are not meant for students under grade seven.
A Culture of Kindness
Colonial has long put an emphasis on creating a positive school climate. Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) was among the first schools in Montgomery County and the tri-state region to be certified as a No Place for Hate School by the Anti-Defamation League in 2006. The program empowers participants to challenge anti-semitism, racism, hate and bigotry in all forms. PWHS has also participated in the organization's peer training program.
In 2008, then State Senator Connie Williams chose Colonial Elementary School (CES) as the location to announce legislation to require school districts to have anti-bullying policies. Senator Williams said she chose the Colonial School District to announce the legislation based upon "Colonial's proactive, comprehensive and longstanding anti-bullying efforts."
In 2010, PWHS was the first high school to receive the ADL's Barry Morrison Courageous Conversations Award. The award is a tribute to the ADL's regional director and is given annually to a local school or community that has exhibited creativity and courage in engaging students in a dialogue about diversity through the No Place for Hate® project.
Colonial Middle School and Colonial Elementary School are also certified as No Place for Hate Schools.
Over the years, CSD schools have also participated in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, the John Halligan forum on Bullying, Cyberbullying and Youth Depression, Challenge Days, Doc Dixon's Bully-Free Amazing Wonder Show and many more. (Click here to view a story of the recent Philadelphia Flyers School Program at CES). (Click here to view a story on the Great Kindness Challenge at Conshohocken Elementary School). (Click here to view a story on World Kindness Day). (Click to view a story on ADL Peer Trainers at PWHS).
Presently the District also participates in Safe 2 Say Something - a youth violence prevention program run by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.
"The District has strong anti-bullying/cyberbullying policies and procedures in place," said Dr. Christian. "We do recognize our responsibility to continuously improve. Rachel's Challenge is the next step in that ongoing process."