Mokena SD159 expanding ‘Rachel’s Challenge’ anti-bullying program
By Susan DeMar Lafferty firstname.lastname@example.org August 31, 2012 4:44PM
Updated: October 3, 2012 6:13AM
Mokena School District 159 will expand an anti-bullying, character education program into its elementary and intermediate schools, and offer a session for parents.
Rachel’s Challenge – a program based on the writings and life of 17-year-old Rachel Scott, who was killed at Columbine High School in 1999 – was introduced in Mokena Junior High School two years ago.
School officials recognized the value of the program early on at the junior high and decided then to expand it to other grades, said Sarah Boldman, social worker at the junior high.
Student assemblies will be held Wednesday at Mokena Elementary School and Mokena Intermediate School, and Thursday at the junior high. A program for parents and community members will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at the junior high.
According to its website, Rachel’s Challenge is a series of “student-empowering programs and strategies that equip students and adults to combat bullying and ally feelings of isolation and despair by creating a culture of kindness and compassion.”
Earlier this year, Heidi Herrmann, mother of a Mokena Intermediate School student who has been bullied, launched a Facebook page titled “We want an anti-bullying program in Mokena School District 159.” She and other parents addressed the school board on the issue in June, saying existing anti-bullying policies were not working.
At that time, Supt. Steve Stein said the Rachel’s Challenge program would be coming to the schools in the fall.
The assemblies are not in response to the parents’ request but were booked prior to that board meeting, Boldman said.
“It is important to note that Rachel’s Challenge is more than just an anti-bullying program. It is about being better people and having strong character. The challenges are good for all kids,” she said.
Also this year, the board made changes to its student handbook to add bullying and cyber-bullying to its list of offenses that could warrant discipline.
“There is still a lot of work to do,” Herrmann said. She is hoping to work with the Parent Advisory Board to update the school district’s website to make it easier for parents and students to report bullying.