Northern Wyoming News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Karla Pomeroy

Creating a positive environment at school

School board approves bringing ‘Rachel’s Challenge’ to WHS, WMS


December 25, 2018

WORLAND — “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.”

Those words were written by Rachel Joy Scott in her final school essay. Rachel was the first student killed in Columbine High School in the school shooting April 20, 1999. She is also the inspiration behind Rachel’s Challenge, a movement that for the past several years has been “awakening individual transformation and promoting safer, more connected schools,” according to the Rachel’s Challenge website.

With a motion by the Washakie County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees last Monday night, Dec. 17, Rachel’s Challenge will be coming in 2019 to Worland High School and Worland Middle School.

Superintendent David Nicholas told the board at last Monday’s regular meeting that there was a presentation on Rachel’s Challenge during the November Wyoming School Boards Association convention.

“I’ve not been able to escape this story. I was profoundly moved at the WSBA Conference,” Nicholas said.

Business Manager Jack Stott echoed his statement, adding that Rachel’s Challenge can do more for school safety than hard solutions.

“It’s a compelling story. It fills in the soft solutions that these other things, building systems and hardening the building can’t,” Stott said.

New board member Sarah Lungren also saw the

presentation and has been doing some research on Rachel’s Challenge in hopes the district could bring the program to Worland.

“It’s not an assembly, it’s something they create. They create an atmosphere and create programs in the schools. There is support for staff, teachers all year to help them help the students,” Lungren said.

Lungren and Nicholas noted that the first 10 districts to sign up get a considerable discount from the $6,800 fee. With or without the discount, Nicholas said the district has funding available through a grant program that cannot be used on salaries or activities.

Along with setting up programs in the schools, there is also a night event for parents.

Lungren recommended having the program at both the high school and middle school.

Duane Whitlock made the motion to bring Rachel’s Challenge to both schools. It was approved unanimously.

Board member David Tommerup, who also attended the WSBA conference, said, “It gives you an attitude check.


Rachel’s Challenge works to build a positive school ecosystem.

According to the website, “Creating a school climate less susceptible to harassment, bullying and violence is possible. For us it started when Rachel Joy Scott was the first person killed in the Columbine High School shooting on April 20, 1999. But that was only the beginning of the story. After her death, many students that Rachel reached out to shared stories with the Scotts about the profound impact her simple acts of kindness had on their lives; even preventing one young man for taking his own life. They soon realized the transformational effect of Rachel’s story and started the non-profit organization that is Rachel’s Challenge today.

“In the 19 years since we lost 12 innocent lives, including Rachel, her legacy has touched 25 million people and is the foundation for creating programs that promote a positive climate in K-12 schools. Her vision to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion is the basis for our mission: Making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect; and where learning and teaching are awakened to their fullest.”

“Rachel’s Challenge programs provide a sustainable, evidence-based framework for positive climate and culture in our schools. Fully implemented, partner schools achieve statistically significant gains in community engagement, faculty/student relationships, leadership potential, and school climate; along with reductions in bullying, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use,” according to the website.

According to a press release by Rachel’s Challenge, “160,000 students skip school every day for fear of being bullied. These 160,000 kids are in flight mode. They are so fearful, they can’t even make it to school, let alone learn. Think about how many more students are in either fight or freeze mode because of fear and isolation; and you’ll begin to understand the magnitude of this issue.

“Creating a school environment less susceptible to harassment and violence is possible. It is happening in culturally diverse schools across North America every day. These positive school ecosystems must be built on a solid foundation.

“This foundation is the culture of the school. It is the soil where security, identity and belonging take root. The better the soil, the deeper the root, and the more stable the culture becomes. This foundation is built by: 1) awakening a desire for change in students and staff; 2) creating an awareness of self and others; and 3) building student-to-student and teacher-to-student connections.

“Building a strong foundation requires, first, a catalyst; a story or significant event that ignites the passion for connection and change. This flame must then be fueled by: 1) relevant student, teacher and staff training; 2) simple classroom strategies and content; and 3) meaningful service within the school and community. These work together to help create a culture where students and teachers feel safe and connected; and achievement can flourish.”

Last year Rachel’s Challenge delivered culture building programs to 647 schools across the country.


In addition to Rachel’s Challenge, the Worland school board discussed the recent security evaluations by CTA, the architect firm.

Stott said each school has a “common deficiency of separation of the office and the main entry. He said for security it is best to have a clear line of site from the office to the entryway. Rather than renovations, this can be accomplished electronically by improving monitors and adding cameras.

The report also suggested panic buttons throughout the school.

Metal detectors are mentioned in the report at a cost of $5,000 to $10,000 each plus staffing. Stott noted metal detectors would need to be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week with staffing available.

“[Metal detectors] sound really good. They can be part of a solution depending on how you are using them,” Stott said.

Right now at the start of school students come in four doors, requiring at least four metal detectors. They would have to be in use after school and during events, otherwise there is the possibility of someone bringing in a weapon and hiding it for later.

Stott said the CTA report also mentioned bullet proof glass or bullet resistant glass for the office areas.


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019

Rendered 04/30/2020 09:46