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LHUSD embraces anti-bullying program

 Program includes assemblies, teacher training and curriculum for HS juniors to pass along to others.
Program includes assemblies, teacher training and curriculum for HS juniors to pass along to others.

Lake Havasu schools have embraced a nationally-recognized program dedicated to making schools safer from bullying.

At an initial cost not to exceed $59,000, Lake Havasu Unified School District has contracted with Colorado-based Rachel’s Challenge with the aim of preventing school violence, bullying and suicide.

Formed in 1999, following the school shooting at Columbine High School and named in honor of the first victim of the tragedy – Rachel Scott – the nonprofit organization has statistical evidence that its program has made a difference. The program includes district-wide school assemblies, teacher training and a crafted curriculum for high school juniors to pass along to others.

By teaching children to use kind words and actions, accepting and including others, choosing to be positive, and passing on the knowledge of the program to younger students, more than 100 suicides have been prevented and seven known school shootings have been averted since the program started, according to Rachel’s Challenge,.

Diana Asseier, Havasu’s superintendent, said she believes in a world where bullying, shootings, and intolerance have become the norm, it is only logical to bring a program like Rachel’s Challenge to Havasu.

“This past fall our community was shaken by the suicide of one of our students,” Asseier said. “In Arizona, suicide is the leading cause of death in ages 10-14, and the second leading cause of death in ages 15-34.”

As a school district, Asseier added, how does it better serve their youth in prevention and intervention?

“Having safe schools, creating an engaging classroom environment focused on meaningful learning and ensuring we have adults on campus that care and who can make connections with our students are our priorities,” Asseier said. “How are we being proactive, not only for our students who are (contemplating) suicide, but also who are committing violence?”

The genesis of bringing Rachel’s Challenge came from the grassroots efforts of Citizens for Havasu Schools who have pledged to help offset the cost of the program by hosting “significant” fundraising events.

Although other areas schools including Calvary Christian Academy have expressed a desire to be part of a collective endeavor with LHUSD, it is unclear to what financial level of support they will provide.

Regardless of the buy-in, Asseier said there is a real need for Rachel’s Challenge.

According to the program, more than 160,000 students nationwide skip school every day from fear of being bullied.

One tenant of Rachel’s Challenge is something that Rachel wrote in her diaries, “Compassion is the greatest form of what humans have to offer.”

Struggling to hold back her tears, Marcia Cox, a member of Citizens for Havasu Schools is passionate about bringing Rachel’s Challenge to Havasu.

“This is a tough one because we all know why we are here,” Cox said. “We lost a child last year … and more than that (previously) to suicide. We knew we had to do something, but we didn’t know what it was. This is the right thing and has all the answers.”

More than 28 million students have gone through Rachael’s Challenge including at least one teacher at LHUSD – who as a student after Columbine attended the program – remembers how impactful it was and something that was a driving force in her decision to become a teacher.

“This program does touch lives,” Cox said.

 

(by David Louis, Today's News-Herald : May 20, 2018)


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