(NHRMS) and the East Haddam community have taken a proactive stance on bullying prevention by dedicating themselves to creating a culture of kindness. East Haddam Youth & Family Services (EHYFS), in partnership with the NHRMS faculty and with support from MPAC (the middle school's parent action council), began building a culture of kindness by bringing to the school in October of last year.
Students and faculty attended an assembly that detailed the life of Rachel Scott, the first victim of the 1999 Columbine shooting in Littleton, CO. The mission of Rachel's Challenge is based on the writings she left in her journals and school assignments, as well as her many acts of kindness and compassion.
Rachel's Challenge, according to Kaitlin Besier of EHYFS, asks students to create a culture of kindness in their school and community by overcoming prejudices, choosing positive influences and committing to engaging in small acts of kindness. An evening presentation was also offered to parents and the community.
Following the presentation, students in grades 6-8 were given the opportunity to join the newly formed Chain Reaction Club. This group has approximately 50 members and 5 adult advisers comprised of two school guidance counselors, Stacy Vogl and Kristy Canali; Toni McGabe and Kaitlin Besier of EHYFS; and Sarah Donner, a parent and MPAC representative. The team came together to create school and community-based projects to spread Rachel’s message of kindness and compassion throughout the East Haddam community.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Bullying has been a concern nationwide as well as in the state of CT. It is believed that bullying prevention can strengthen communities, improve learning, reduce crime into adulthood and reduce the likelihood of depression and suicide in youth.
On June 12, 2008, Governor Rell signed into law "a measure that strengthened local and state efforts to prevent school bullying."
In July 13, 2011, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed an Anti-Bullying Bill into law that takes comprehensive steps to “prevent bullying and ensure every child the right to learn in public school without fear of teasing, humiliation or assault.”
The law was in response to evidence that bullying impedes students’ ability to succeed in school. Connecticut students who report being bullied “are more likely to get less sleep, miss school because they feel unsafe, feel depressed, attempt suicide, have property stolen at school, carry a weapon to school and experience dating violence.”
State law now requires the following steps to reduce the incidence of student bullying:
- All school employees, including bus drivers and cafeteria staff, must receive annual training on how to prevent and respond to student bullying and suicide. All teaching candidates and beginning teachers must also receive training.
- School employees must report acts of student bullying to school officials. They have one day to submit oral reports, three days to submit written ones.
- When schools receive reports of bullying, they must investigate them promptly. Parents of the children involved must be notified of the school’s response within 48 hours after the investigation’s completion.
Instead of being solely reactive to the concerns of bullying at the middle school level, the East Haddam community is being proactive in their approach to end bullying by creating a culture of kindness instead.